Kenai vies for All-American status

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2011

After more than a year of work, Kenai's All-American City committee is finalizing its application for the annual award given by the National Civic League.

Kenai's application centers on three projects.

One is the effort to protect the health of the Kenai River, another is the city's work to coexist with bears and the third is the Caring for the Kenai youth competition.

Committee member Christine Cunningham said the projects have already garnered recognition for the city.

She has received calls from students in the Lower 48 who wanted to talk to someone at the city about its bear-related efforts, and the city has received grants and other recognition for its efforts related to the personal-use and educational fisheries.

Deciding which projects to highlight wasn't been an easy task.

"We started over a year ago and we had 50 projects," said Cunningham, who works for the city of Kenai.

Before the group chose its three projects to highlight, Cunningham went to the final competition in Kansas City with library director Mary Jo Joiner last spring.

Their take-home message was that the projects needed to be something the whole community was invested in, Cunningham told the council at its Feb. 16 meeting.

The committee spent time researching the possible projects and figuring out what best fit the criteria.

"We had a pretty good idea of what a winning application was," Cunningham said.

The competition looks at the issues that matter to many growing regions, she said.

"Sustainability and diversity are the big issues."

Choosing environmental projects wasn't their goal from the outset, and Cunningham said that the projects were chosen independently of one another.

The application process has changed since the city last won the award, Cunningham said,

"Back in 1992 when the city was an all-American winner, we chose all buildings," she said. Those building projects were the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, the Senior Center and the Visitors Center.

Now applicants are asked to include one project that relates to youth in the community.

"Building projects are still, of course, something you can include," she said.

Cunningham said the committee will be presenting its application to Kenai's City Council on March 2. Applications are due March 14.

If Kenai makes it to the next round, the city will be one of 10 to send a delegation to compete in Kansas City, Mo., in June. There, finalists give an oral presentation.

Seward was the most recent award recipient in Alaska, earning the All-American designation in 2005. Anchorage won prior to that, in 2002.

Molly Dischner can be reached at

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