Tourists babysit peninsula schools

Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- While most tourists visiting the Kenai Peninsula cast about for fish, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is hoping to snag a few tourists.

The borough is looking for campers to be guardian angels of peninsula schools during summer vacation.

The idea is to have people living at the schools to discourage vandalism. The hosts get a place to stay and a cell phone for emergencies, plus electricity, water and, if available, sewer.

''The vandalism at the schools got so high we decided to try this,'' said Bill Kopecky, general foreman of the borough's maintenance crew.

Borough taxpayers each year get stuck with a bill averaging about $20,000 to repair damage that occurs in the summer, said Borough Risk Manager Gary Lamb. The most common problem is broken windows.

Last year, borough maintenance personnel advertised for volunteers in ''Workamper News,'' a magazine for campground hosts. They tested the idea with one person at Redoubt Elementary in Soldotna and two at Tustumena Elementary in Kasilof.

The only incident reported was one case of juveniles driving on the lawn at Tustumena. In that case, a campground host relayed the information, including license plate numbers, to troopers.

Having school ground hosts was such a success that the borough and school district decided to expand the project this year.

Meanwhile, C. L. and Jean Stockhouse, who were hosts at Tustumena last year, wrote about their experience in ''Trailer Life,'' one of the nation's most popular magazines for recreational vehicle travelers. Since the information was published, inquiries have poured in.

''This winter I sent out well over 100 applications,'' said Brenda Manka, the maintenance secretary who coordinates the host program. ''We have 22 already for 2001.''

Ron and Diane Works from Georgia arrived May 25 to set up camp in front of Sears Elementary School in Kenai.

''I think it's a wonderful program,'' Ron Works said. ''We love your state.''

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