Monthly Archives: March 2012

Slip slidin’ success — Ski day targets youth with special needs

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Owen Swaby gets two hands from mom, Kate Swaby, left, and volunteer Denise Harrow during a learn-to-ski event for kids with special needs Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails.

Redoubt Reporter

Being a physical therapist, Angela Beplat could rattle off the skills the kids were working on as they participated in a learn-to-ski event for kids with special needs Saturday afternoon at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School in Soldotna.

“You’re always trying to

Xander Kinslow takes a load off in between skis during the event.

work on core strength and bilateral coordination and all these different types of skills, but skiing is so cool because it’s an activity that naturally has all those kinds of things. It’s all there,” she said.

The parents — watching their kids laugh and play, concentrate on staying upright and tackle the difficulty of shuffling up a slope only to launch fearlessly back down it — could attest to the social and educational aspects of the event.

“They get to see kids from therapy or school, and it’s also good for them to be around older kids who are skiing,” said

Sophie Lathrop sports a stylish unicorn helmet as part of her warm-weather garb during a learn-to-ski event Saturday.

Angela Lathrop, who brought her four adopted kids, ages 6 to 9, to the event. “It’s good to see them get out and do stuff, and it also raises their confidence. So many times with our kiddos with special needs you have to be so careful with safety and they don’t always understand the inherent danger in things. Continue reading

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Moose shot after dog attack — Incident under investigation

By Naomi Klouda

Photo courtesy of Homer Tribune. Reports of moose in distress are becoming increasingly common as winter drags on.

Homer Tribune

A moose was shot Thursday after being severely injured after being run down by a pack of dogs on Ternview Place, in Homer, resulting in citations for the dogs’ owner and an investigation.

At about 7:30 p.m. March 23, Homer Police received a call reporting the moose had been shot to put it out of its misery after the dogs attacked it. The dogs, owned by Joseph Patten, were reported to Homer Animal Control for their aggressive behavior, said Police Chief Mark Robl. Patten was issued three citations, one for each dog.

It is not automatically OK for a resident to shoot a moose, either in defense of life and property or as a mercy killing, Robl said. The matter has been referred to the Alaska State Troopers for investigation.

It was one of four moose shot in Homer in recent months.

“One of the three dogs had severely injured the moose,” Robl said. “The neighbor and gentleman with the dogs decided they needed to put it out of its misery, so the neighbor shot the moose. The dogs had been reported as aggressive in the past. A report was made to the animal control officer, who issued three citations for having dogs at large.” Continue reading

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Strange sightings — Birds make unusual appearances over the winter, spring

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Ken Tarbox. This red-wing songbird was spotted in Seward in November. It is one of several unusual avian sightings on the Kenai Peninsula this winter and spring.

Redoubt Reporter

Those with an eye to the sky, and in some cases the ground, have seen some unusual bird species showing up across the Kenai Peninsula this winter.

“It started during the (Audubon) Christmas Bird Count,” said Toby Burke, a wildlife technician at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Each year, Audubon supporters and devoted birdwatchers flock together in December to divide up geographic regions and then count birds in their assigned sections. Burke said there were more birds and in higher numbers than usual around many parts of the peninsula, and this trend continued as the winter got into the colder, darker months that followed.

“As we got into January and February we had three reports of common loons — one in Nikiski, one in Soldotna and one in Kasilof. We also picked up a red-necked grebe in Kenai and saw a handful of murres in the mouth of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, and all of these would normally be much farther south,” Burke said.

For the loons, Burke said that seeing one on the central peninsula would be anomalous, but seeing three in one winter is quite unusual.

“It’s way out of the norm. These birds typically winter in ice-free waters down the Pacific Coast, from Kachemak Bay and Prince William Sound down to California,” he said. “We wouldn’t normally see them showing up here until May, when they arrive in thawed areas and then move out to the lakes as they opened up, too. This is the first time I’ve ever seen them here in the middle of winter.” Continue reading

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Winging It: Bird feeding good views

By Sean Ulman, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Sean Ulman. A flock of gray-crowned rosy finches indulges in birdseed strewn in a yard in Seward earlier this winter.

Upon moving back to Seward, I put three bird feeders up before the heat was turned on. The yard list — birds seen in the yard or from the yard or within a certain distance of the yard, depending on how you’re keeping score — seemed to start out with a bang. Hauling travel bags inside, I looked up and saw a northern flicker, perched in a sip of sun on our deck railing before it flew across the street into a scruffy spruce tree. Or did I see it?

We had observed many red-shafted flickers on our drive west through Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Washington. The field marks I noted in the sunshine-flickering three-second encounter on the deck — blue-gray face, speckled breast, streaked jacket, rosy under-wing wash — had become relatively routine.

It dawned on me that flickers might be fairly uncommon in Alaska. So I noted the potentially notable bird, looked forward to seeing this woodpecker regularly and carried on with my arrival errands.

I never saw that fickle flicker again. It’s noted on our yard list with a bold “?”. The entries for great blue heron and mallard are noted f/o, for flyover. A sharp-shinned hawk that wisely learned to stalk our stocked feeding station is listed with a fly-thru postscript. Continue reading

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Not so happily ever after — Rocky union results in vow to avoid ceremonial duties

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of the Thompson family. Donnis Thompson, seen at age 28, shows off a king salmon she caught near Ninilchik in the summer of 1956.

Redoubt Reporter

Donnis Thompson had a bad feeling about the marriage — not her own, of course, which was just fine, but the one she was about to officiate. Still, she had a job to do.

In her early 20s in 1953, Donnis had come to Kenai to marry Stan Thompson, with whom she had worked in Fairbanks for the Army Corps of Engineers. Shortly after the couple settled in Kenai, Stan, who was in the process of creating a building-supply business named Kenai Korners, was appointed as U.S. commissioner (a magistrate, essentially, in pre-statehood days), and Donnis became his assistant commissioner. Therefore, when Stan was away, Donnis had to play the part of commissioner herself.

And thus it was that she was called upon to marry a middle-aged Kenai couple — a pair she did not wish to name, she said, but who were known in the area as “heavy drinkers.”

In those days, Kenai had a population of about 300 people, was still seven years away from becoming a city instead of a village, and offered very few commercially profitable opportunities. The groom, as an example, was a professional net-mender, and he mended commercial fishing nets year-round.

“All the time, really good, very fast,” Donnis said.

The bride had never cut her hair and typically braided it into two thick pigtails that hung down her back to well below her waist. She was proud of her long hair, and those braids would play a part in the lives of the Thompsons again at a later time.

With Stan gone, Donnis was approached about doing the ceremony, and she didn’t like the stress.

“I was scared silly,” she said. “I’d never performed a marriage ceremony before, and I thought, ‘What if I don’t do it right? What are the repercussions? Would the kids be illegitimate? What’s going to happen?’”

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Night Lights: Lights still bright as darkness wanes

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh

Days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter. Thus, this will be my last column before fall.

The winter constellations Orion, Gemini, Taurus, Canis Major and Auriga with all their bright stars are now visible in the west, setting during the late evening. Leo with its bright star Regulus is speeding across the sky, which is why I perceive Leo as the harbinger of spring. When it appears in the east, winter’s end will soon be here. When it reaches the western horizon, flowers are in full bloom and deciduous plants will have regained their leaves. In addition, the summer triangle comprised of the bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair reappears in the northeast.

As it has been for most of this winter, it’s going to be another great month for planets. During March we saw superbright Venus in the west right above Jupiter. Although Jupiter is the second-brightest object in the sky ahead of even the brightest stars, the giant planet just about fades in comparison. Venus keeps moving farther left of Jupiter night after night — a really good example showing that planets move (the word “planet” means “wanderer”).

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Art Seen: Working it

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

"Dilemma" by Marlene Theil Pearson

There are so many excellent pieces at the “Harvesting the History of Work” show currently on view at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, I hardly know where to start in describing them. This is the third in a series of interdisciplinary expositions taken on by students at Kenai Peninsula College, and the second to be on exhibit at the center.

More than 40 pieces of artwork, lots of writing and historical objects on loan from the Kenai Historical Society and pulled from the center’s collection, tell an interesting saga regarding work in this area. Continue reading

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Plugged In: As technology matures, good deals come of age

Spring photo contest

It’s time for the second Redoubt Reporter, reader-submitted photo contest.

Photos will be judged and winners selected by a three-member panel. After each contest closes, we’ll publish and discuss some of our favorites in the Redoubt Reporter, space permitting. We’ll choose some of our favorite submissions from this spring 2012 photo contest and our fall 2011 contest and invite those photographers to frame and hang their photos at a Redoubt Reporter June 2012 group photo show already scheduled at the Sterling Highway Kaladi Brothers coffee shop.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. April 20, 2012. All submissions must be in high-quality digital format. Submit no more than five JPEG images by email to

Entry rules:

1. Our themes are “Winter into spring” or “End of a long winter,” and submissions must fit this theme. Entrants must be amateur photographers who are residents of the central Kenai Peninsula.

2. Photographs can be of any subject fitting the theme but must have been taken of the Kenai Peninsula on or after Jan. 1, 2011.

3. If you submit photographs in which people are recognizable, you must also provide us with their permission for us to publish any such photographs.

4. Please do not submit portrait photos. Do not submit photographs whose content would not be appropriate for publication in a family newspaper. Do not submit photos of illegal subject matter. All such photos will be deleted immediately without notice to you and at the sole discretion of the editor.

5. Photographers must include their name, telephone number, email address, town of residency and each photo’s date, location and subject matter.

6. Submitted JPEG images should be of the best possible technical quality. Good technique and technical quality are important, but originality, creativity, interesting subject matter, artistic merit and good composition are even more important.

7. By submitting photos, you agree to our publication of them in the Redoubt Reporter newspaper and on our website. The Redoubt Reporter will have the right of first publication of your photos. However, you will retain the copyright for all other purposes and your name will be listed if we publish any of your photos.

8. Our decisions about what’s published or selected for exhibition are final and are admittedly subjective. Space is limited, and the judging panel and editor reserve the right to choose photos at their discretion.

9. Retain your original digital files of all submitted images. We are not responsible for preserving copies of your digital images.

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Snared in trapping debate — Chugach National Forest sees overlap of trapping, dog owner recreation

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Skiers pass on a busy day at the Russian River Campground groomed ski trails in Cooper Landing earlier this month. The trails are open for people to bring along their dogs, but groomers worry about the potential for problems with trapping also allowed in the area.

Redoubt Reporter

Sitting inside, chatting on the phone or sipping coffee while having a conversation about the conflicts between trappers and dog owners, cool heads can concede that a middle ground exists with reasonable precautions and common sense applied on both sides.

But opinions and tempers can tighten and snap as quick as the mechanism of a trap when the topic is sprung in the field, by a four-legged friend yelping in fear and pain at being snared, or by trappers’ realizations that the time, effort and expense they’ve invested in establishing their trapline have been wasted by someone stealing or tampering with their equipment.

Those situations can start heads scratching over a more official approach — specifically, whether or not to institute regulations and, if so, what, when, where and how.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Cooper Landing has had an up-close experience in that debate. Though the community is home to less than 300 year-round residents, those residents and growing numbers of visitors have become increasingly active in wintertime outdoor recreational pursuits, such as skiing and snowshoeing, oftentimes bringing along their dogs. At the same time, the area also is traditionally popular among trappers, both from the area and beyond.

“The trapping around the Cooper Landing area is not exclusively done by Cooper Landing residents, but also people from Seward come in, Moose Pass, people from Anchorage and Girdwood also come down. They come from far away. I had people all the way from Fairbanks come down and set traps here,” said Robert Gibson, owner of Kenai Lake Lodge in Cooper Landing, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Trappers Association and a member of the Cooper Landing Fish and Game Advisory Committee. “It’s a rural activity for the residents that live there (in more urban areas). Where there’s lots of people, I couldn’t imagine somebody setting traps there. Here, there’s not so many people.”

Not so many people in residence, certainly, but, especially with the advent of groomed ski trails in Cooper Landing and also in Moose Pass in recent years, there are more people out and about in the backcountry than there used to be. The trails are open for skiers and snowshoers to bring their dogs, as well.

“There have been a number of dogs that have, in the last couple of years, either been killed or been snared and/or injured by trapping. There was a dog this year right off our ski trails at Russian River caught in a snare,” said Ed Holsten, part of the volunteer crew of ski trail groomers in Cooper Landing. “There are some people who are adamantly against trapping and other people, like me, I’m kind of 50-50 on it. I’m not against it but I think, especially in Cooper Landing and also Moose Pass, where the last few years we put in a lot of time and effort into increased winter recreation use by grooming ski trails at Trail River Campground, the Old Sterling Highway, Russian River Campground and Resurrection Creek Trail, we’ve seen more of an increase in recreation use in the wintertime because of these groomed trails. We open the trails up to skiers, skijorers, snowshoers, people skiing with dogs or without dogs. This issue needs to be explored.”

Proposals for increased trapping regulations, such as requiring that traps and snares be set back a certain distance from recreational trails and around homes, have been proposed to the Cooper Landing Fish and Game Advisory Committee, which has supported them to the Board of Game, to no avail. So, the debate continues over whether an elixir of awareness, common sense and good behavior can soothe this issue, or whether a dose of regulatory action is needed.

“The local Fish and Game Advisory Committee is wrestling with this, the balance between what’s legal and what should be ethical. I think as Alaska grows up, there’s often this conflict between the way it’s always been and the way it’s going to have to be,” said Chris Degernes, who lives with her husband, Bill, in Cooper Landing.

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Don’t let the bedbugs bite — What to do with pesky bugs making peninsula inroads

By Naomi Klouda

Photo courtesy of Cooperative Extension. The pesky bedbug has been found on the Kenai Peninsula.

Homer Tribune

Bedbugs disappeared from America for the most part about 1940, but since 1990 they have made a comeback as itchy irritants hitchhiking their way from larger cities to smaller towns.

Including, apparently, Homer.

Nowadays, there are new weapons in the form of dogs trained for detection.

“Just like you have dogs that can sniff out drugs, or to sniff out bombs or cadavers, these are dogs that trained specifically to sniff out bedbugs and their eggs,” explained Randy Beuter, owner of Eagle Pest Control and Trees.

For professional verification on bedbugs, Beuter teams up with a beagle named Rudolph provided from the National Anthropology Scent Detection Canine Association, which certifies the dogs in a testing program. These are expensive teammates, not unlike a police dog.

All the better to help root out what appears to be a growing problem.

The Kenai Peninsula Cooperative Extension Service branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks has received calls and dispenses advice on what to do when people find themselves sharing beds with the bugs. Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician, identifies the bugs for people.

“That’s my job. People bring me bugs, including bedbugs. Before DDT was done away with, bedbugs were just a part of life. Since heavy chemicals like that are no longer in use, there has been a resurgence of them worldwide,” Chumley said. “People shouldn’t be surprised to see them everywhere.”  Continue reading

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Area taxes see big spikes — Alaska 1 of only states where government can triple bill without notice

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

When Melanie and Doug Meeker opened their latest property tax bill, they should have been sitting down.

According to the Kenai Peninsula Borough assessment, their property value at Lighthouse Village went up by 60 percent in the past year. Another parcel was up 80 percent.

“It is just stunning. We are in shock,” Melanie Meeker said Friday. She figures the tax bill amounts to a $400 to $600 monthly check to the borough. The Meekers own Lighthouse Village rental cabins, a quonset hut and a home in Homer. The quonset hut likewise came in at a higher appraisal.

It didn’t make sense, so they made phone calls. The borough assessor’s office is working with them.

While a few landowners say their assessment went down, others are sticker-shocked. One taxpayer who owns a downtown parcel in Homer calculates her property taxes rose 226 percent. Another has unimproved land, without a road or water and sewer, that rose from a valuation of $30,000 to $120,000.

Bay Realty owner Debra Leisek said that what’s needed is a legislative solution. Alaska is one of the only states that doesn’t bar governments from tripling or quadrupling property taxes from one year to the next.

“We need the Legislature to look at this. No other state is allowed to tax property so it comes in double and triple what it was the year before,” Leisek said. “There needs to be boundaries on the amount these things can be.” Continue reading


Filed under economics, Kenai Peninsula Borough

Almanac: Local names reign on Tsalteshi Trails

Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part story about the history of Tsalteshi Trails, the main training ground for three central peninsula high schools and the local centerpiece for skiing and running competitions. The first article discussed how the land was acquired and how the trail-making was planned. The second article showed how a confluence of motivated individuals opened up the ridge line for skiing, running and mountain biking. This week’s article demonstrates the unqualified success of the trail system and its continuing growth and refinement.

Photos courtesy of Bill Holt. In early autumn 2009, Bill Holt creates a wire trench for the lighting systems on the Beaver and Raven loops at Tsalteshi Trails.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

Bill Holt, the primary groomer and caretaker for Tsalteshi Trails, remembers how his role with the trail system intensified in the mid-1990s:

“Back in the dark ages, Alan Boraas was digging out one of the old Ski-Do Alpine snowmachines, and I was rubbernecking nearby and asked if he needed some help,” Holt said. “We got it dug out, and he asked if I wanted to help him groom. I said, ‘Sure.’ Alan took off, made it to the top of the hill and got stuck. Lots of blue smoke and blue language. I went up to help, and the next thing I knew I was spending more and more time on a snowmachine following him around.

“Alan puts a lot of thought into everything he does, and he instilled that scientific approach into grooming the trails. I think I have inherited that. We have gone through lots of equipment modifications, but it still comes down to having a certain amount of snow sense — when to groom, when to wait, how to make things better and not worse.” Continue reading

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