Alaska, Featured, Seward History

Seward’s Top Stories from 2016

Seward, Alaska’s new flag flying proudly at City Hall. Photo by Kelley Lane

By Kelley Lane for Seward City News –

It’s time to say goodbye to a fabulous 2016. Seward City News is grateful for your readership and interaction on the site and around town. We feel fortunate to be a resource for Sewardites and those visiting our lovely community. On our site and among our staff, this has been a year of transition. We are excited for what 2017 holds for Seward City News and for the future Seward. I, Kelley, am one of the new additions to the SCN staff, and as such, I will say thank you for welcoming me. I’ve met many of my fellow townspeople around town at community events, and I look forward to the coming months for the chance to meet more local people.  And now for a recap of the year as we’ve experienced it from a news perspective.

2016 has been a year of transition and adjustment in Alaska. We have seen organizations and government grapple with budgetary adjustments. We’ve witnessed our economy continue to change with the global price of energy falling. At the same time, we had the biggest visitor year on record with more than 2 million visitors to our state, half of them arriving by cruise ships.

Our third most-read story of the year is directly connected with the cruise ship and tourism industry.  In May this year, you may remember the tragic story of the fin whale that got stuck on the bulbous bow of a cruise ship which came from Glacier Bay. That story made headlines worldwide and was reported, with excellent photos, by citizen-journalist Carol Griswold.

The summit and halfway mark of the Annual Mount Marathon Race on July 4, 2016. Photo by Spencer Burgin
The summit and halfway mark of the Annual Mount Marathon Race on July 4, 2016. Photo by Spencer Burgin

Our biggest event of the year happens on the July 4th weekend, in the form of the Mount Marathon Race. Seward is well known around the world for this crazy mountain race. Visitors pour into town, our campgrounds, hotel rooms and housing reach maximum capacity and people sleep wherever they can find a place. This year’s race, in addition to the regular excitement, also benefited from the reclaiming of the men’s title by an Alaskan. In 2015, the men’s and women’s record had been claimed by Europeans. This summer, that record was beaten by a full 20 seconds. Anchorage resident David Norris finished and set the course record with a time of 41:26. This record was broken for the third time in 4 years yet it’s previous standing was held by Bill Spencer for over 30 years. The race took place amid fog rolling in, an overcast sky but no rain, which made for ideal race conditions. The women’s race was also won by an Alaskan, Christy Marvin of Palmer.

A Mountain Goat descends the breakwater at Seward Small Boat Harbor shortly before it perishes in Resurrection Bay
A Mountain Goat descends the breakwater at Seward Small Boat Harbor shortly before it perished in Resurrection Bay. Photo By Steve Fink

Also in July, a wayward mountain goat found it’s way to the small boat harbor, then paraded down the waterfront with onlookers in tow.  This rarity set the stage for an even more bizarre story when the goat stumbled into Resurrection Bay and perished at the south end of town.  This unfortunate end also set off a wave from the media as the pre-demise images and video captured by SCN Editor Steve Fink went viral. This was our second most-read story that once again brought national attention to Seward.

Ronn Hemstock at Seward Municipal Airport during President Barack Obama’s 2015 visit.

The top story this year on Seward City News also had a major emphasis on animal human interactions. The reality that we live in a small town set amidst tremendous wilderness reserves was evident. On an early October morning Seward High School  teacher Ronn Hemstock was viciously mauled by a grizzly bear at the Seward airport where he stores his bush plane. His response article after being treated for his injuries was a message of gratitude for the care and concern that he received. In his October 30th piece, he commented that “The whole experience has given me a new brighter outlook on life.”

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Just this month, the Seward flag was raised for the first time at a City Council meeting, and the following day, around Seward at three other locations. The flag design competition was held in the spring and the winning design by Katelyn Correa was chosen from amongst 350 entries made by local school students. The flag was premiered at this year’s Founder’s Day celebration, on August 28th. The official raising of the flag in City Council Chambers was done by our local Boy Scout troop, in front of a full gallery of local townspeople, as well as the City Councilmembers. Seward’s new flag rises on realized dreams.

Mayor Jean Bardarson raises the new Official Seward Flag for the first time in Council Chambers. The flag was presented in a ceremony by Seward Boy Scouts
Mayor Jean Bardarson raises the new Official Seward Flag for the first time in Council Chambers. The flag was presented in a ceremony by Seward Boy Scouts

Our local maritime economy continues to develop and thrive across the bay. On December 21st, a cold and clear day, I was fortunate to be part of a tour given to the Port and Commerce Advisory Board (PACAB) of the Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC). This is the facility located across Resurrection Bay from downtown Seward. SMIC has a new breakwater expansion, completed recently by local contractors Hamilton Construction. SMIC currently houses 30 vessels and has 55 dry dock stalls available. Assistant Harbormaster Matt Chase stated “we’re proud of our product over here.” SMIC has more plans in the works for continuing to improve the property for future business generation to benefit the community of Seward, with hopes of continuing to attract more winter vessel storage. This is not yet a major story on Seward City News, but is a major milestone in Seward’s history met by the city in 2016 as Seward attempts to foster growth in the local maritime economy.

A new rock breakwater segment was added to the basin at Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC) in 2016. Photo by Steve Fink

2016 was a good year for Seward, and an exciting time to be living in Alaska. We continue to restructure our economy and find new ways to make use of our abundant resources. In a recent Chamber “Rise and Shine” morning meeting, I heard first hand from local business people that October 2016 brought more visitors than any previous October. Seward is well on its way towards having more year round businesses. We already have a tight knit community and a fantastic setting. 2017 here we come!

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  1. Pingback: A Letter From the Editor: Thank You for 2016 and Happy New Year – Seward City News

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