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Rocking the boat

Kenai, Landing haggle over best use of boat

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

 

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  The K-6 sits on the lawn outside the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center but a business owner would like to relocate it to his location. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The bow of the F/V K-6 shows its 55 years of age Tuesday morning in Kenai.

Kenai City Council members on Wednesday decided to allow a 50-year-old wooden boat to remain high and dry at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

The K-6, a wooden commercial fishing boat built in 1950 and donated to the city by the law firm of Nordstrom, Steele and Jefferson, has sat next to the center since 1993.

Recently, representatives from Kenai Landing said they'd like to take possession of the boat and use it as part of a display at the resort, which was developed on the site of the old Libby McNeil Libby cannery on the Kenai River.

At a council meeting last month, Kenai Landing representative Dan Van Zee told the council that the boat has fallen into disrepair at the visitors center and argued that Kenai attorney Jeff Jefferson — who originally facilitated the donation — was in favor of the transfer of the boat.

 

The K-6 sits on the lawn outside the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center but a business owner would like to relocate it to his location.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

But when Kenai city officials could find no documentation that the law firm ever put any conditions saying the boat could be taken back, it fell to the council to decide whether to loan the boat to Kenai Landing or keep it as a display at the center.

On Wednesday, Van Zee said Kenai Landing would like to restore the boat and use it as part of a planned museum dedicated solely to fishing in Alaska.

"The Kenai Landing site, under the direction of the Alaska Fisheries Museum, is without a doubt the best place to display the boat," he said.

However, cultural center Executive Director Maya Renken said the boat is a crucial drawing card at the center. Although she acknowledged the boat needs some repair work, Renken said she believes the visitors center can handle the project through grant funding and other means.

"It's part of the historical collection for the city of Kenai," Renken said.

Renken also argued that if the city decided to loan the boat out to a private entity, it would set a dangerous precedent for the center's own museum.

"This could be just the tip of the iceberg," Renken said.

Both Van Zee and Renken argued that the boat would better serve the city's tourism industry by being cared for by their respective organizations.

Council members eventually agreed with Renken, saying that using the boat at the center and restoring it would be in the city's best interest.

"I think the visitors center, by going through grants process, is going to restore this vessel," council member Blaine Gilman said.

Although he supported keeping the boat with the city, Gilman also said the visitors center should not have let the boat fall into disrepair.

"The visitors center dropped the ball here when they let this boat deteriorate," he said.

Council members Jim Butler, Cliff Massie, Gilman and Mayor Pat Porter voted to keep the boat at the center.

Council members Linda Swarner and Rick Ross voted in favor of loaning the boat out.

Swarner said the issue of the boat's condition was the deciding factor for her.

"I have a problem keeping it where it is because the conditions weren't met," she said.

Swarner, however, acknowledged the boat can serve as a good piece of tourism marketing wherever its displayed.

"I think either way it can be a good marketing tool," she said.

Following the vote, Renken said the center is already pursuing the estimated $7,000 to $10,000 in grant and donation funding needed to restore the boat.



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