Monthly Archives: June 2013

Bear in mind — In-town bruin sightings on the rise

Photo courtesy of Ellie Nelson. Ellie Nelson, of Soldotna, and her son spotted this brown bear sow and her cubs rummaging in a Dumpster behind Cornerstone Marketplace at the “Y” intersection in downtown Soldotna about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Ellie Nelson. Ellie Nelson, of Soldotna, and her son spotted this brown bear sow and her cubs rummaging in a Dumpster behind Cornerstone Marketplace at the “Y” intersection in downtown Soldotna about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Considering how this spring started — with a brown bear being killed in April after it attacked a family out for a day of birding at the Kasilof River mouth — things could be worse in terms of human-bear interactions.

“It’s been a relatively quiet year, especially the last few weeks,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

To date, there have been eight brown bears shot in defense of life or property
around the peninsula, fewer than any year in the past decade with the exception of last year, which was one of the lowest on record.

“All of last year we only had eight DLPs, but that was an exceptional year,” Selinger said.

Following the Kasilof beach incident April 28 — it was later deemed the bear was likely blind and starving, possibly leading to it lashing out at anything that moved — another bear, an adult brown bear male, was shot by a homeowner off Arc Loop Road south of Soldotna.

“It was right at the start of May and it was getting into chickens and pigs,” Selinger said.

A day later another bear was killed, this time south of Kasilof, off of Wise Owl Avenue, formerly known as Falls Creek Road, when an adult male was threatening a homeowner’s dogs. Human-bear activity was quiet for a few weeks, then on May 26 a subadult female brown bear was shot after it charged a homeowner on Robinson Loop.

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Oil taxes initiate friends of foes — Recall petition sees support across political spectrum

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

To those who follow the central Kenai Peninsula political scene, the following could sound like the setup for a bit of local humor, or at the very least be cause of a wryly raised eyebrow: Dick Waisanen, Tom Wagoner, George Pierce and Bob Shavelson walk up to a bar, or stand in front of Safeway, or meet up at the post office, and … .

The humor is predicated on the premise that while these folks share a reputation of outspoken political involvement, they do so from often widely divergent points on the political spectrum.

Waisanen, of Soldotna, has twice run as a Democrat for a Kenai-Soldotna seat in the Alaska House of Representatives, supportive of many party platforms, such as wanting to increase state spending on education and development of alternative energy projects in the state. Wagoner, a Republican, was Kenai’s senator from 2003 to 2012.

Pierce, of Kasilof, with undeclared voting registration, has been a proponent of fiscal conservatism, limited government and having term limits for elected officials on a state and local level. He’s been particularly outspoken lately against the assembly’s passage of expanded protections — through rules and regulations — for lands bordering anadromous streams.

Shavelson, of Homer, has been a vociferous leader in Cook Inlet’s environmental conservation community, in 1996 becoming executive director of Cook InletKeeper — which Pierce has lambasted in his public testimonies as a “special interest group” in the anadromous streams issue.

What do they have in common, other than being regulars in the peninsula’s political fray? Since May 22 they, and many others in the state representing a wide continuum of political persuasions, have all been on the same side of an issue, united behind one banner — or clipboard, rather — in support of a recall initiative targeting repeal of the bill recently passed by the Alaska Legislature that revamped the state’s structure of taxes and incentives for the oil industry.

“This probably is a first in the fact that the issue itself is so important to people of all different walks of life and different political persuasions that they’re looking at this and saying, ‘This is an Alaska issue, this is something for the state. If this is allowed to continue the state is going to suffer dramatically,” Waisanen said.

He and his wife, Sharon, are two of about 30 people on the peninsula who volunteered to gather signatures to get a repeal question on the next statewide election ballot. The list reads like the public testimony queue of people weighing in on an issue before the assembly, or a list of frequent authors of letters to the editor. Many of the names are usuals in the political activism crowd, but usually not on the same side of an issue.

“This is not identified as a Democrat issue or a liberal issue. I think it’s important enough that we just have to get on-board — I don’t want to say against the oil companies — it’s just against their philosophy of trying to get every dollar they can out of the product they’re working with, and we just say, ‘Hey, the oil belongs to the state of Alaska. The constitution says the government has to work the resources to the best benefit of all Alaskans,’ and this Legislature has not done that,” Waisanen said.

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Home-cooked notoriety — Nikiski mom stirs up Internet following

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Maya Evoy works on a recipe for strawberry lemonade at her home in Nikiski to post to her food blog, Alaska from Scratch. Evoy has been blogging since fall 2011 and has seen rapid, exponential growth in readership.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Maya Evoy works on a recipe for strawberry lemonade at her home in Nikiski to post to her food blog, Alaska from Scratch. Evoy has been blogging since fall 2011 and has seen rapid, exponential growth in readership.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When the Evoy family left Bakersfield, Calif., for Nikiski in 2011, Maya Evoy was looking forward to the different flavor that small-town Alaska would impart to her family’s lifestyle.

They’d strain out the stress and hustle of life in a busy, crowded city, swap their commute times for equal parts quality time at home with the kids, season liberally with fishing, gardening, berry-picking and their other new favorite activities, and savor the sweetness of life boiled down to a concentration on their priorities. It would mean Maya could trim the fast-food drive-throughs and convenience meals from the family’s menu to get back to cooking herself, from scratch, for her family of five.

Like a soufflé blooming out of its pan, all those aspirations rose to Maya’s expectations, and then some. And then some more. Especially that last one, as these days, she’s cooking for about 200,000 a month.

It’s still just her immediate family at the table being actually nourished by her culinary efforts, but these days thousands more all over the world also devour what she makes, savoring vicariously through her cooking blog, Alaska from Scratch. She started it in October 2011, feeling tepid about the whole thing at first, but interest heated to a boil as quickly and unexpectedly as an unwatched pot of water.

“First, I never imagined I’d be a food blogger, and, second, I never imagined it’d be so popular,” Evoy said. “I think people are so interested both in Alaska and the Alaska lifestyle, and also are interested in real food, and from-scratch cooking is popular and on trend right now. I didn’t know that when I started, or didn’t strategically say, ‘This is how I want to do it to get followers.’ I was never in it for that. I just live out here in small-town Alaska with three small kids and I’m a pastor’s wife, just a normal person, and yet I have readers all over the world. It’s really caught me off guard, and I’m really humbled and honored by it.”

Jason Evoy took a job as pastor at Nikiski Nazarene Church in order for the family to slow down and simplify their California lives. The church he worked at in central California had about 1,000 parishioners, compared to Nikiski Nazarene’s 75 or so in the winter. More in the summer, but not so many more that Jason loses track of people’s names or needs.

“It’s fishing families and miners and teachers and nurses — just great Alaska people in our church. They love each other and the community, and we wanted to be a part of that,” Jason said.

“We were looking to simplify, we were looking to really reprioritize our lives and be more self-sufficient and really focus more on our family and community and all those things that we were missing in California,” Maya added.

Their three kids — sons Brady, 10, and Connor, 8, and daughter, Kelty, 5 — seemed to be spending more and more time being shuttled around, and less roaming around. And Evoy didn’t have time for her hobbies anymore — photography, writing and, particularly lacking, cooking.

“Cooking in California for us was more about convenience. More store-bought ingredients, more drive-throughs and not so much cooking from scratch, cooking real, wholesome food, which is where my heart really was. It’s just our lifestyle didn’t lend to it. Parenting three young kids, it was just about what was easy,” Evoy said.

But that’s not how she grew up. Not easy, in a sense, since she came from a family that struggled financially. But where they were scant in a budget for convenience ingredients and eating out they had a generous helping of knowledge in making the most of what was available.

“I always loved being in the kitchen, that was kind of my safe place when I was a little girl. My grandma put me in the kitchen on the countertop and we would make homemade bread together,” Evoy said. “We were really poor growing up and a lot of my cooking skills came from necessity, just learning to make a lot with a little and to cook with what was on hand.”

Her new home, though far from Southern California in many ways — availability and affordability of some ingredients, for instance — still has a lot in common with Evoy’s culinary upbringing.

“In a lot of ways that works with Alaska because a lot of time we don’t always have everything on hand or fresh produce or things, but then we have some amazing resources to work with — like salmon and halibut and razor clams and mushrooms and berries — so I think my background lends to the environment up here,” she said.

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Fish on in July

Staff report

Sport anglers hoping to catch a Kenai River king salmon this summer had reason to cheer Tuesday as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced it would reopen sportfishing in the Kenai with the late run of kings starting July 1, after closing fishing on the early run of kings June 20. But don’t cheer too loudly, as king fishing in July is already starting off with restrictions, and could face the same fate of closure as the early run.

Fish and Game issued an order Tuesday stating that the Kenai would open to sportfishing July 1, but that use of bait and multiple hooks would not be allowed, from the river mouth upstream to Skilak Lake, and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge. From July 1 to July 31, anglers may only use one, unbaited, single hook with an artificial lure.

And even single hook, unbaited fishing might not last. Fish and Game advises that it will monitor the run closely and enact further restrictions should the late run appear in danger of not meeting escapement numbers.

“King salmon runs to Cook Inlet, including early-run Kenai River king salmon, and throughout Alaska are experiencing a period of low productivity, with the 2013 runs being less than preseason forecasts and of low run strength. Based upon the relationship between early-run king salmon abundance and late-run abundance, it is likely the Kenai River late run will also experience below-average run strength and be well below the preseason forecast,” according to the department’s Tuesday news release.

As of June 24, based on historic run timing, about 78 percent of the early run of Kenai kings was complete, and Fish and Game notes below-average and less-than-forecasted king counts from its DIDSON sonar and other run-strength indices. The cumulative early run DIDSON sonar count of Kenai kings was 1,384 fish by June 24. Current estimates project the run at a total of 1,700 to 2,200 early run kings, while the preseason forecast estimated 5,300 kings.

Updates on the run and fishery status can be found under “fish counts” on the department’s website, at

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Seeking a path to more trails — Group seeks input on areas needing access

By Carey Restino

Homer Tribune

While an abundance of trails can be found a boat ride across Kachemak Bay, many areas of the southern Kenai Peninsula are relatively trail-free, but an effort is underway to change that.

The Southern Kenai Peninsula State Parks Citizen Advisory Board has reinvigorated an effort recently to identify areas in Ninilchik and Anchor Point, as well as other areas that need trails.

Right now, the effort is in the conceptual phase, said Roger McCampbell, chief ranger for the South Kenai district and a liaison for the Kachemak Bay State Parks Citizens Advisory Board, but energized to move forward.

Currently the group wants input from area residents. Once some trail locations are identified, the group plans to pursue grant funding.

“The idea is that trails link the community to the parks and the community to the community,” McCampbell said. “The group wants to know what kind of interest and support is out there.”

McCampbell said one area that has been discussed in the past as needing more-defined trails is along the Anchor River, where hundreds of visitors flock during the summer to camp, fish and recreate. Trails leading from the school to the river and along the river to the beach parking lot are among the ideas considered, he said. McCampbell said that trail system was planned many years ago, but funding and logistics stood in the way. There are several chunks of private property along the road that parallels the river, he said, and trying to find a way to continue the path by those properties is difficult.

But there is no question the need is there, McCampbell said.

“Right now on a busy weekend it can be kind of tricky walking the road,” he said.

Another area where potential trail needs are being discussed is in Ninilchik, where some in the community have expressed the desire for trails for walking and biking.

Ultimately, the citizen group would like to see trails going all the way from Soldotna to Homer, McCampbell said, but that’s a long-range plan. For now, starting to develop the network with that ultimate goal on the horizon is a good way to proceed, he said.

Those interested in commenting on areas where trails are needed and what uses those trails are needed for can contact the group by email at

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Almanac: Community communion — Peninsula parishioners find places to pray

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part story concerning the early Christian churches of the central Kenai Peninsula. Last week featured the origin of Christianity on the Kenai and early church efforts throughout the 1940s. This week focuses on how local church offerings, particularly the Catholic Church, expanded throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s. Next week will feature other early places of worship, including the Methodist Church, the first church in Soldotna.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

Photos from the Kenai Peninsula College photo archive. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Soldotna, seen in 1962.

Photos from the Kenai Peninsula College photo archive. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Soldotna, seen in 1962.

A photograph from “Once Upon the Kenai” depicts an odd-looking Catholic Mass from June 1955 in Kenai. The words in the ceremony may have been the usual fare, but the setting certainly was not: The scene was the Western Corral Bar, where an altar had been erected from two oil drums, a sheet of plywood and an old white bedspread.

Father Thompson presided as parishioners arrayed themselves around the outside of the counter. On the wall behind the congregation were alcohol-related posters, and drink-mixing implements could be seen behind the bar.

Such was life for the Catholic faithful in the early days — and, truth be told, such was life for the congregations of many early churches on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Catholic services on the central peninsula began in the home of Frank and Marge Mullen in 1951. The Mullens had moved out of their 14-by-16-foot cabin when Marge became pregnant with their third child, and were renting a place near the Soldotna bridge from the brothers Alex and Marcus Bodnar.

The Mullens, who had lived briefly in Anchorage in the mid-1940s and had remained in contact with the Catholic hierarchy there, had been informed that if they arranged a place of worship, an itinerant priest from Seward could make regular monthly visits to the area once the roads were passable in the spring. Thus did Father Arnold Custer, whom Marge called “a great old Jesuit,” bring Mass to the masses on the western peninsula.

Later, the parishioners determined that Catholic services should be moved closer to the population center, so the meeting place was moved to Kenai, with Louisa Miller arranging the locale wherever space was available — from her own café to Kenai Joe’s bar, from the old Territorial School to the Carpenters Hall. They even met sometimes at Wildwood Army Station, when a Catholic chaplain was flown down from Anchorage to hold services in the Quonset hut that served as a base chapel.

Marge Mullen remembers that many of the church venues had their own peculiarities — Mass in the café, for instance, might be enhanced by the smell of freshly baked bread, while the smells in the bar might include ashtrays and the vestiges of old beer.

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Paint by numbers — Mural project advances to semifinal round, seeks location nominations

“Living on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska” by David Hartman.

“Living on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska” by David Hartman.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The Kenai Peninsula has moved another phase closer to having its own original artwork decorating a public space, depicting a vision of “Life on the Kenai.”

The Paint the Kenai mural project has moved into its second stage of community voting, asking people to continue to narrow down mural contenders and suggest locations for the final selected design.

“Kenai La Belle” by Fanny Ryland.

“Kenai La Belle” by Fanny Ryland.

Twenty-three mural designs were submitted by peninsula residents over the winter and spring, and went on display as a summer art show at the Kenai Convention and Visitors Center in May. People viewing the show have been asked to vote on which mural design they’d like to see painted large scale out in the community. The first round of voting closed June 14, from which the top 12 vote-getters were named the semifinalists — “Coastal Community: Life-Giving Waters” by Erica Miller, “It’s All Good on the Kenai” by David Hartman and Lee Salisbury, “Spirit of the Kenai” by Cynthia Hemphill, “Living on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska” by David Hartman, “Kenai La Belle” by Fanny Ryland, “Kenai’s Identity” by Paul Tornow, “Mother Kenai” by Amy Kruse, “Tern Lake — Crossroads of the Kenai” by Scott Sherriti, “All in a Great Weekend” by John Winters, “Peaceful Town” by Sarah Baktuit, “View Finder” by Jan Sherwood and an untitled piece by Anna Widman.

Untitled by Anna Widman

Untitled by Anna Widman

The second round of voting to further narrow the 12 semifinalists is ongoing through July 26. Peninsula residents can also now suggest locations for the mural. Location nominations will be accepted through July 26. Suitable sites should have good public access and good exposure for a wide audience, but nominators don’t have to do anything more than suggest a spot. Paint the Kenai organizers will vet the locations, evaluate logistics and determine whether permission could be obtained from property owners.

Once suggested mural locations are determined as to suitability, one spot will be chosen for a 12-by-24-foot mural, chosen by peninsula residents from the 12 semifinalists, to be painted permanently on display. Once chosen, the Pen the Kenai writing submission also will be put on permanent display with the mural.

Location submission forms are available at the Kenai Convention and Visitors Center, which is also where peninsula residents can vote in the semifinal round of mural selections. At the end of the summer the selected mural, writing and location will be announced. A book commemorating the Paint and Pen the Kenai Projects also will be produced by the project organizers — the Soldotna Rotary Club, Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, and the Redoubt Reporter.

"It's All Good on the Kenai", by David Hartman and Lee Salisbury.

“It’s All Good on the Kenai”, by David Hartman and Lee Salisbury.

Marcus Mueller, president of Soldotna Rotary, said he’s been very pleased with participation in the project thus far.

“Every time I’ve been over there there’s been people over there looking at the show, and I’ve heard lots of good feedback,” he said. “(I hope people) just continue to celebrate the ideas and the works and the people and the place.”

For more information, contact Mueller with Soldotna Rotary at 398-1122, or visit Paint the Kenai on Facebook.

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