Peninsula Clarion: Murkowski pushes to reauthorize heritage site

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area is one of only 55 NHAs in the United States.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is working to reauthorize the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area through 2036, per a Monday release from Murkowski’s office. The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area is one of only 55 NHAs in the United States and is the only one in Alaska. It was originally created through the Omnibus Lands Act in 2009, and is currently set to terminate in 2024.

NHAs are “places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape,” as defined by the National Park Service. Each NHA is created through an individual federal law and receives annual Congressional appropriations that generally range from $150,000 to $750,000, according to NPS. Other NHAs can be found in places like Nevada’s Great Basin, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Niagara Falls.

If passed, the bill — currently before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee according to Congress.gov — would mean the area would remain eligible for federal support through 2036. Communities in the area include Cooper Landing, Girdwood, Hope, Seward and Whittier and is managed by the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm Corridor Communities Association. That association receives and administers federal funds to support locally initiated community projects in the heritage area, according to their website.

The association announced more than $90,000 in grant awards earlier this year for projects in the area that include, among other things, about $9,000 for the improvement and installation of interpretive signs at the Kenai Lake boat launch in Cooper Landing, about $3,200 for the Seward Chamber of Commerce to digitize historical records of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby and $8,800 for the creation of a cultural historical map of the heritage area.

“Reauthorizing the KMTA NHA allows for the continued opportunity for various stakeholders and locals to maintain Alaska’s only National Heritage Area,” Murkowski is quoted as saying in a Monday press release. “This place is special to Alaskans, and I’m proud to introduce legislation that will support Southcentral communities and our state’s tourism economy.”

Among the “places of interest” identified by the NPS in the heritage area are the K’Beq’ Cultural Site in Cooper Landing, Kenai Fjords National Park and the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm Corridor Communities Association is responsible for the development and implementation of a management plan for the area, in collaboration with people and organizations that have a role in the area.

The National Park Service specifically references the role the region played for Alaska Natives traveling along the corridor and along waterways, the Turnagain Arm Gold Rush and exploration of the area by people looking for a Northwest Passage from Europe to East Asia.

More information about National Heritage Areas can be found on the NPS website at nps.gov/subjects/heritageareas.

By:  Ashlyn O'Hara
Source: Peninsula Clarion