Alaska, Featured, KPB, Seward Schools

National Heritage Area Grants Build Bridges

Four Valleys Community School Summer Intensives are one of KMTA’s new grants.

From a new steel beam bridge across California Creek in Girdwood to a storytelling project between elders and youth in Seward, Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area awarded grants to connect people to places and their stories at the April 12 KMTA Board meeting. National Heritage Area grants are designed to promote local participation in communities discovering their stories.

Girdwood and surrounding Turnagain Arm communities proposed three local projects approved by the KMTA Board for the upcoming year. Girdwood’s Town Square interpretative signs will be fabricated and installed this summer, the Four Valleys Community School, serving families throughout Turnagain Arm, will again offer scholarships for their youth summer Adventure Camps, and the Girdwood Trails Committee will lead the replacement of the failing California Creek Bridge.

Further south in the Kenai Mountains corridor, projects for Portage, Cooper Landing, and Seward were awarded funding. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage is in the finishing stages to open a new indoor educational facility. The new Snug Harbor Pathway in Cooper Landing will see facilitated community design of an interpretation and user amenities plan. Seward students will have the opportunity to interview elders and share their stories by producing and publishing multimedia iBooks.

Community mission

These six infrastructure and education projects serve KMTA missions of historic interpretation, education of the public, particularly youth, historic trail development, assistance to local interpretative centers, and community development. KMTA awarded up to $52,215 for the 2017 spring round of community grants, to be matched by at least $99,467 in support from volunteers donating their time, donations of building and educational materials, and matching funds.


KMTA will contribute $5,000 to help replace the damaged California Creek Bridge on the Lower Iditarod National Historic Trail. The new bridge will connect the old Girdwood Townsite to the new Girdwood Townsite, linking miles of trails that weave past beaver ponds and through dense forest on a route traveled by the Dena’ina people, miners and trappers, and current valley residents.

The Seward PTA will initiate an Elders Sharing project among Seward K-12 students, the Qutekcak Native Tribe, Seward Providence Mountain Haven, Seward Senior Center, Seward Boys & Girls Club, Jesse Lee Home alumni, and Seward individuals. Elder-student partners will compile photographs, videos, artifacts, and accounts to create interactive iBooks using iPads installed with the iBook Creator App. Finished iBooks will be published and freely available. Some will likely be shared on the KMTA website.

The Girdwood Town Square signage project, Four Valleys Community School (FVCS) Adventure Camps, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center’s (AWCC) Bison Hall completion are all follow-up investments by KMTA to complete or renew outstanding projects. Girdwood residents, including students, contributed to the design of four interpretative signs in the Town Square Park exhibit. The signs will be fabricated and installed this summer. Last summer, with KMTA scholarship support, 50 youth participated in FVCS Intensives, as well as an additional 18 in Field Sports and 23 in their Olympic Games. This summer’s programs will include Intensives in “Girdwood Goldrush Days” and “Rivers & Hydrology”. AWCC plans to complete Bison Hall this year, providing an indoor and sheltered-outdoor facility for furless, non-hibernating humans to learn about resident animals and habitat.

The Cooper Landing Walkable Community Committee led the effort to secure Federal Highways funding for a 1.8-mile bike/pedestrian path along Snug Harbor Road, improving the safety of non-motorized access to the Cooper Landing Senior Center and public recreational trails. The next step in this recently completed construction project is an interpretation, beautification, and waste management plan with local guidance and landscape architectural expertise. Community workshops are planned for this summer to develop a final design that can then be used to place amenities like benches, signs, and garden beds where desired.

These projects are possible because of strong community involvement and the rich geological and cultural landscape of this coastal mountain corridor. Project updates and future grant opportunities can be found on the KMTA website,


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