First day at Kenai River Guide Acadamy
At a Board of Fish meeting back in 2002 board member Larry Engel challenged Kenai River Guides to come up with a way of stabilizing the guide industry on the Kenai River, “At that time 50% of the Kenai River guides were failing to last more than 5 years and every year an average of 50 to 75 new Kenai River guides were being licensed some who may have never seen the River before,” said Steve McClure, president of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association (KRPGA). The challenge according to McClure was to come up with a way to deal with the social issues before they became Board of Fish issues.
Last week’s inaugural Kenai River Guide Academy at Kenai Peninsula College was the KRPGA’s response to the challenge. “We spent countless hours in meetings the next few years working on this idea and came up with a draft for a college level class, but still needed someone to put it all together for us,” explained McClure. Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner felt the new curriculum would be very much in keeping with the UAA mission for the Kenai River Campus and took on the project of developing the concept into a certified college curriculum in cooperation with the KRPGA, Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Dora Sigurdsson Sport Fish Guide Licensing and Logbook Program Coordinator for ADF&G discusses catch reports at day one of the inaugural Kenai River Guide Academy at KPC
Early last year, the working group incorporated the Kenai River Guide Academy program into their recommendations for new State Park Regulations. Those regulations were signed by Lt. Governor Loren Leman and took effect March 14th, 2006. This year the course is optional, but in 2007 it will become mandatory for all new guides who want a permit to guide professionally on the Kenai River. The week long inaugural class was by invitation only, and the response was encouraging says McClure, “23 Veteran guides signed up and they all showed up today, so that’s a good sign. We did that for this first class purposely to get their input so we can fine tune the class and get things straightened out before it becomes mandatory next year,” said McClure.
Bill Berkhahn, Kenai River District Ranger for Alaska State Parks was pleased with the inaugural class and the concept of the curriculum, “This is definitely a step in the right direction. The majority of the guides are enthusiastic about the program. They are looking toward the future of guiding on the Kenai and are supportive of helping our group of guides be better informed and more educated in providing a better experience for their clients who ultimately are the park users and of course that is our goal for the users to have a safe, quality, trip,” said Berkhahn.
The curriculum has been skillfully designed to accomplish its purpose and is not a sleep through easy pass class, “There is a written and oral examination, and you have to pass the written exam to take the oral test which is given by the Kenai River Guide Academy board of directors. The oral exam consists of 6 questions primarily made up of scenarios that you might encounter while guiding and also questions that test you knowledge of the Kenai River,” said Turner. The second week long class begins April 24th - 28th; the fee for the 5-day course is $206 and includes 4 lunches, for more information call KPC at 262-0328.
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