Before summer ends, residents need to play 'tourist' on peninsula

Posted: Friday, July 09, 2004

One of the tough things about being a Kenai Peninsula resident during the summertime is that it seems like everyone else is on vacation. Tourists from all over the country and around the world, as well as other places in Alaska, are here playing, while residents are, well, stuck working having to squeeze their fun in before or after eight hours or more of hard labor.

The visitors enjoy morning and evening walks along the Unity Trail. They get to take their time savoring the artwork at "Wild Alaska: Bounty of the Sea" exhibit on display at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. They hike peninsula trails without worrying about getting to work on time. They visit the information centers and museums. They tour the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. They take time to admire the view from the scenic lookouts. They fish. They look for wildlife. They make it a point to visit the many parks and recreation areas the peninsula has to offer. They stop by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and marvel all over again about how accessible and pristine our public lands are. They book flight-seeing trips and train excursions and raft adventures and cruises. They seek out nooks and crannies that residents may overlook or take for granted.

In short, they savor everything about the peninsula that attracted residents in the first place, but that sometimes get crowded out because of the business and busy-ness of everyday life.

It hardly seems fair especially with the summertime weather we've been experiencing. Who can do a good job of anything except play in this heat anyway?

Visitors to the peninsula should know that lots of residents envy them. Heck, some visitors see far more of the state in a few weeks than some Alaskans have seen after decades of living here.

So, as a reminder and encouragement to residents: Remember, summer days are long, but summer itself is short so take a day or two off and enjoy the reasons you live here.

When you plan your at-home adventure, consider visiting one of the peninsula's newest attractions: the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. The center is home to the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge as well as the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve.

The 4.9 million acre refuge is so remote that most people will never get a chance to visit it in person, but now the center provides an opportunity to take a virtual journey to some of the most rugged, inaccessible places imaginable. The refuge includes more than 2,500 islands that stretch from the Arctic Ocean to Southeast Alaska and it covers a variety of habitats: tundra, rain forest, volcanoes, beaches, lakes and streams.

While the refuge is best known for its seabird populations 40 million birds representing 30 different species it also is rich in history. The center provides a fascinating look at the little known role the Aleutian Islands played in World War II.

The center allows visitors to explore the refuge's history, bird life and marine mammals, as well as get a glimpse of the the life and work of researchers in the refuge.

For Alaska visitors and residents, it's worth a visit. No fees are charged.

Our bet is residents will walk away with even more appreciation for this place they call home, and visitors will envy residents that they get to live here all year long.

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