Group seeks national status for peninsula road corridor

Driving toward history

Posted: Monday, March 27, 2006

Well-known for spectacular vistas and a history important to the development of Alaska, the transportation corridor along Turnagain Arm and through the Kenai Mountains is nearing a significant federal designation.

On March 14, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly added its support for continuing the effort to create the Turnagain Arm-Kenai Mountains National Heritage Corridor.

Congress recognizes regions of the country with nationally significant historic, scenic and recreational resources through the National Heritage Corridor designation.

The designation imposes no federal ownership or federal control.

The quest for corridor designation began in 1999 with resolutions passed by the borough assembly and the assembly of the Municipality of Anchorage. Those resolutions also had the wider support of 24 chambers of commerce, visitors associations, historical associations and other groups from Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.

A $350,000 federal grant, obtained by Sen. Ted Stevens and then-Sen. Frank Murkowski, helped a group called the Kenai Mountain-Turnagain Arm Corridor Communities Association, in association with residents of the seven corridor communities (Bird, Indian, Girdwood, Hope, Cooper Landing, Lawing, Moose Pass and Seward), complete historic preservation and park projects including two museums, two roadside parks, two stabilization reports for historic buildings, two reports containing interviews of long-time Alaskans, and a publication called “Trails Across Time.”

Jim Richardson, chair of the association, said projects included building a museum in Cooper Landing, restoring historic buildings at the Hope Museum, constructing a roadside park in Moose Pass and another in Seward, and completing a study of how to stabilize historic buildings in Lawing along the Seward Highway near Moose Pass.

“The projects completed so far really speak for themselves. They are outstanding accomplishment by those communities,” Richardson, adding that the nonprofit association was looking forward to the federal designation and continuing to provide travelers from Outside and Alaska with information about corridor communities.

The borough’s resolution of support adds another voice to the effort to secure still further federal funding.

At least two bills in the U.S. Senate have tried to establish the corridor and authorize creation of a pool of money from which grants could be sought. Richardson said Sen. Lisa Murkowski continues to support the designation effort.

“The current status (of the effort) is that we are working with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office to introduce a bill again in the Senate,” Richardson said. “Then we’ll be working with Rep. Don Young to introduce a companion bill in the House.”

Richardson said he got involved in the effort after seeing a presentation in 1998 about an area back east that centered on the history of local shoe factories.

Soon, he became chair of the communities’ association to look into attaining a corridor designation for the Kenai Mountains.

Later the Turnagain Arm area was added.

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