Christine Cunningham already knows the Kenai Peninsula is a great place to live.
"I love living here," said the current Nikiski resident who grew up in Kenai.
From the hiking, fishing and hunting opportunities this location affords Cunningham said she was not surprised to hear the city of Kenai was ranked among the best towns in America for hunters and fishermen by Outdoor Life magazine.
At No. 32 out of the magazine's "top 200 towns for outdoorsman," the only thing Cunningham was shocked to find out is that Kenai did not place better.
"I was surprised we weren't higher up on the list," she said.
Two other Alaskan towns out-ranked Kenai with Kodiak coming in at No. 26 and Cooper Landing at No. 20.
The top five towns ranked by the magazine were Rapid City, S.D., Pocatello, Idaho, Page, Ariz., Lewiston, Idaho, and Kanab, Utah.
John Taranto, senior editor for Outdoor Life, said the magazine compiled the list of 200 towns through recommendations from readers and colleagues. This is the third year the magazine has ranked cities.
Outdoor Life looks at several different categories, including amenities and mean household income in addition to gun friendliness and outdoor resources to come up with the final list.
"What we do is we break down the formula into socio-economic and sporting categories and we weight the sporting score over the socio-economic score 60 to 40," he explained.
Kenai ranked high in several different groups to attribute to its final placement.
In terms of population growth, Taranto said there's been an 11.5 percent increase since 2000.
"That shows it's a vibrant town," he said. "There's obviously a lot going on there."
The cost of living in Kenai is "very low" at an 84 rating (the U.S. average is 100), according to city-data.com, he said.
At 259 people per square mile, Kenai also placed among the top for towns with "remote possibilities."
Kenai was also one of the "best towns for kids" because of its education score of 9 out of 10, according to data on standardized test results the magazine gathered from great-schools.org.
"That helped it quite a bit," Taranto said.
As far as outdoors goes, Kenai was placed among the best coastal towns as well as a "top trout town."
"It did extremely well in all of the outdoor categories," Taranto said.
"I definitely think they're right on with picking Kenai," said Cunningham, who works for the city.
"We've got so much land here, and public land especially," she added. "You go to the Lower 48 to enjoy the outdoors and the resources aren't available."
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter reiterated this sentiment.
"All you have to do is go Outside for a little while, for a week even, and realize what you missed," she said.
Porter said Kenai's recognition and ranking is "wonderful."
"I live here and stay here because I know what's outside my door and it's to be cherished," she said.
Taranto said part of the ranking process is to identify places people might want to visit or move to.
"Hopefully people notice it and take pride in the fact that their town is among the highest ranking towns," he said.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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