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Kenai celebrates 50 years of incorporation

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2010

Fifty years ago, the Kenai had 743 people, a few bars, a few churches and little in terms of infrastructure.

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Photo Courtesy Of George And Mary Ford
Photo Courtesy Of George And Mary Ford
The Kenai Garden Club wears fancy, homemade hats in the early 1960s. The city of Kenai has changed a lot during its 50 years of incorporation. Style may be just one example.

Today there are 7,115 people that call Kenai home, along with many small and big businesses, and developed city services.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Kenai, when community members voters for an organized local government to address public safety, growth and resource management.

Kenai City Council intends to recognize the golden anniversary through celebration events to be held this year.

"I think it's a real milestone for the city," said Kenai Mayor Pat Porter. "The city has come so far in 50 years."

The council recently passed a resolution to recognize the landmark as well as creating a committee, along with the local historical society, to plan a commemoration.

Porter said the celebration event will most likely be a large reception recognizing Kenai's movers and shakers who rallied for Kenai to be a first-class municipal government.

Porter said she's happy to be able to celebrate with the surviving city charter signatories like Dick Morgan,

Morgan, chairman of Kenai's incorporation committee, said that Kenai's incorporation came about as a way to improve the area's education system.

Before Kenai was its own city the schools were under the state, he said. Initially people pushed for the formation of a school district but that was voted down.

"The next alternative was to incorporate city to be responsible for the schools," he said.

Morgan said the city's incorporation was a fairly contentious issue.

"There was no government on the Peninsula at that time and a lot of people didn't want it," he said.

But through petitioners' efforts and editorials in the old Cheechako News, Morgan said, incorporation prevailed 181 to 85 on May 10, 1960 in a "special incorporation election."

Morgan, who was a previous owner of the Peninsula Clarion and a former city councilman, said that the city has grown so much since 1960.

"I think we had seven bars and seven churches when we were incorporated," he said. "Now the churches outnumber the bars. It was a completely different way of life."

Ryan Marquis, a Kenai city council member who suggested the city recognize its anniversary, said it should use this opportunity to examine its achievements over the last half-century.

"The city of Kenai was incorporated thanks to the efforts of hard-working citizens that had a vision of what their city could be," he wrote in a memo about the resolution.

That vision included police and fire protection, parks, building codes, roads, and utilities.

Looking at the changes in Kenai over the last 50 years due to those who petitioned for incorporation, "one becomes aware of how well their hard work paid off," Marquis stated. "It would he unfortunate to let 2010 pass without celebration and recognition of the anniversary."

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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