Depressed fisheries industry spawns unusual real estate

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- One by-product of hard times for Cook Inlet fish processors is a supply of vacated fish processing plants.

Some are for sale, some are for lease, some have been downgraded to buying stations or exist in business limbo.

The most obvious of the properties is the former Wards Cove Packing Company plant at the mouth of the Kenai River.

Kathy Tarr, director of the Kenai Visitors and Convention Center, told the Peninsula Clarion that some civic leaders have toured the plant, with an eye to how it might be used in the future.

''It has breathtakingly beautiful scenery in all directions,'' Tarr said.

The buildings are spacious, historic and lie within the city limits in a prime, waterfront spot. Included are two parcels, adding up to about 63 acres.

The Kenai Arts Council had written the owners, Columbia Wards Fisheries, inquiring about the property, Tarr said.

Processing buildings on the site date back to the 1920s. Wards Cove had purchased the plant in 1958 and renovated it over the years. It shut its doors in 1998.

Tarr said she hopes the Wards Cove facility at least can become a public resource, including the original fishery buildings.

''It would be terrible to just tear it down,'' she said.

''You can see the economic transition taking place. At the same time, you want to preserve the history. ... It's been so big a part of what we've done here.''

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