Annual Meeting

Join us:

This Wednesday

November 16th, 2022

5:30 pm

Islands & Ocean Visitor Center

Please join us this week for our Annual Meeting! The meeting features the presentation of our latest annual report, including investment performance review, highlights from our grant programs, and stories of how you, the donors, are strengthening our community.

In addition, you have a chance to win one of three different $500 People’s Choice Award mini-grants for your favorite eligible nonprofit. Each person registered by 6:00 PM will be entered for a chance at nominating an eligible nonprofit from the Southern Kenai Peninsula to receive one of these awards!

We are your community foundation, I hope to see you there.

Mike Miller

Executive Director

If you need to attend virtually, use the link below

YAC is Back!

Hey there!

Did you see the exciting news from the Homer Foundation: the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Grant program is now live and accepting applications through November 30th, 2022? This program is accepting applications from organizations that provide programs or services to youth of the southern Kenai Peninsula. 

This year, the committee is looking to support projects or programs that support enrichment, skill-based, or active opportunities for area youth. There was a particular conversation to support trail maintenance in the area. 

For more information or to apply, find our application here.

This is a competitive grant program with a total amount of $10,000 awarded. 

Apply by November 30, 2022.

Do reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

November Newsletter: Many days to remember

Update from the Executive Director

Happy November! We have much to celebrate and be thankful for. I could talk about being thankful for family and friends. Good health. For living in such an amazing place and for having a job that helps so many. All true and good reasons be be grateful, but right now, I’m thinking about you. You, our friends and donors who are the real heroes. The ones who, through their actions, show their care for their neighbors and community. You, the philanthropists among us. Your vision and caring make all the good and charitable causes come alive in our lives. Thank you.

If you didn’t know, November 12-18 is National Community Foundation week and November 16th is “National Philanthropy Day.”

Actually if you’re looking for something to be thankful for, November has many great days to remember and be grateful for. See below.

November – Adopt a Turkey Month. For vegetarians who would rather save a turkey than eat one, this is a great holiday to share.

November 1st – 2nd – Day of the Dead. A traditional Mexican holiday, Dia De Los Muertos spans two days and ends at noon on November 2nd.

November 3rd – Cliché day. This day was made for Social Media. Get the conversation going by starting a list of worst, or best, clichés and ask your followers to add to it.

November 6th – Daylight Savings Ends, U.S.A. It never hurts to have a reminder.

November 6th – 12th – Dear Santa Letter Week. Perfect for inviting parents to bring their kids into your shop for a Santa-letter writing session.

November 8th – Election Day, U.S.A.

November 8th – STEM/STEAM Day. If you’re in the STEM or STEAM worlds or work with children or education, this day is an opportunity you can’t afford to miss.

November 11th – Veteran’s Day. Be thankful for those that served.

November 15th – National Recycling Day aka America Recycles Day. No matter how you say it, it’s all about taking care of our planet by reducing waste. What holiday recycling tips can you share with your readers?

November 16th – National Philanthropy Day

November 17th – Great American Smokeout. Has lung cancer or smoking affected your life or business? That might be a story worth sharing.

November 18th – Use Less Stuff Day. Do you have some tips on how to use less stuff? Or how to keep from buying stuff you don’t need? I could sure use them!

November 19th – Family Volunteer Day. When you have a small business, your employees are family. See what you can do as a team.

November 27th – Artists Sunday. Support your local artists.

November 29th – Giving Tuesday. You don’t have to be a nonprofit to take part. Partner with a local charity to help them get more today, so they can do more for your community tomorrow.

Oh yes….and have a Happy Thanksgiving on November 24th!

Mike


Join Us On Wednesday,

November 16th, 2022

5:30 pm

Islands & Ocean Visitor Center

Please join us next week for our Annual Meeting! The meeting features the presentation of our latest annual report, including investment performance review, highlights from our grant programs, and stories of how you, the donors, are strengthening our community.

In addition, you have a chance to win one of three different $500 People’s Choice Award mini-grants for your favorite eligible nonprofit. Each person registered by 6:00 PM will be entered for a chance at nominating an eligible nonprofit from the Southern Kenai Peninsula to receive one of these awards!

We are your community foundation, and we’d love to see you there.

If you need to attend electronically, we will have a hybrid meeting set up. Click the link below for the hybrid meeting:


New Fund: Northside Trails Fund

The Northside Trails Fund has recently been established at The Homer Foundation by an anonymous donor.

The Fund aims to develop and maintain sustainable, non-motorized hiking trails on the north side of Kachemak Bay, east of Anchor Point.

The grant supports efforts to make ski trails hike-able in the summer, and can also be used to support and develop programs that teach kids to be trail stewards, emphasize the importance of trails, and promote the concept of helping with trail maintenance.


End of Year Matching Campaign

We are now officially in the end of year giving season. We are so blessed to have a generous donor who will match all end of year donations to our Opportunity Fund up to $5,000!  Wow!  Any donation to the Opportunity Fund received between now and the end of December will be matched dollar for dollar up to $5,000. That means you can double the impact of your gift. The Foundation uses the Opportunity Fund  to support the areas in the community with the greatest needs. This giving season let your gift do twice as much close to home. You’ll be glad you did!


Recent Grants

You helped make a difference in your community! See how your support has impacted the world around you:

City of Seldovia- Senior Meals

We recently awarded a grant to the City of Seldovia to keep their Senior Meals program up and running this year. They wrote back:

“Big thank you to The Homer Foundation for fully funding the City of Seldovia Senior Meals grant application for $5000.00 to help extend the program through the end of the year while the City awaits a decision from the state regarding program funding.

Thanks to this generous award the Seldovia senior community will continue to receive hot and nutritious home cooked meals from the program Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Yay!!”

All we can say is, we’re thrilled that the senior community in Seldovia has such a caring bunch around them, especially at this time of year. Keep up the great work!

Kenai Peninsula Fair- Sound System

The Kenai Peninsula Fair Association facilitates commerce, educational and recreational activities that are far broader than just its annual Fair.

But the Fair’s current sound system is over 20 years old, unreliable, and inadequate. This is not merely an inconvenience, but a major liability issue in the event of an emergency that would require a Fair-wide announcement to happen quickly.

The Fair worked with a sound consultant to design a system that would meet the organization’s needs for years to come, and the Foundation provided a $10,000 grant which covered the majority of project costs.

This project won’t just benefit Fair-goers and make the Fair safe – it will be available for all events being held at the fairgrounds including: Peninsula Dog Obedience Group, FFA/4H Horsecamp, 4th of July Rodeo, Salmonfest, and so many others.


Philanthropy Fact of the Month

Aggregated amounts of small gifts are the lifeblood of philanthropic campaigns. Small gifts matter.

October 2022 Newsletter: Visiting Seldovia

Update from the Executive Director

I was privileged to be able to visit the Seldovia community this month. I met with city administration leaders and Seldovia Village Tribe leadership, and we discussed community needs and local plans and efforts to improve the lives of their neighbors.  Thank you all for making me feel welcome!

Seldovia faces issues similar to each of our communities: affordable housing, food security, transportation, broadband, and child care are all important concerns. While there, I was able to present a Quick Response grant to Heli Hanson and the Seldovia Community Preschool. They provide licensed childcare for preschoolers and are co-located in the Susan B. English school building. What a great partnership and model for using community resources to meet critical community child care needs! More on that grant below. 

Mike


YAC is Back!

Homer Foundation Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is back for fall 2022. The YAC has begun meeting to formulate their grant program for this year. Each year this youth lead and youth focused program establishes their objectives for granting to youth related issues. This year the YAC will again have $10,000 to grant in the Foundation’s service area. Thank you to all of the funds which contribute to this award winning program. If you want be a part of youth focused philanthropy you can give to support the YAC Grants. please follow the link below and when asked “What is your donations for?” make sure you select “Youth Advisory Committee ” the or call the office at 907-235-0541.


Annual Meeting

Please join us at 5:30 pm on November 16th for the Homer Foundation’s Annual Meeting which will be at Islands and Oceans Visitor Center this year. In the meeting, we will unveil our annual report, share some successes of fiscal year 2022, and talk about the future. Of course, everyone who attends will be entered into a random drawing to give away one of three $500 People’s Choice grants to an area non-profit. Please join your friends and neighbors in celebrating meaningful investment in our communities!


Recent Grants
Homer Farmers Market- Homer Community Food Storage

The Homer Foundation awarded a $5,000 Quick Response Grant to create a new Homer Community Food Locker supporting everything from year-round storage capacity for local produce, to winter beehive storage.

A 2019 Homer Soil and Water Conservation District local food survey noted the #1 barrier to increased local food production is lack of cold storage in our area. A new insulated Conex – which can provide “warm” storage for winter bees, and “cold” storage for summer produce – goes a long way towards solving this problem. Dozens of local produce farmers, peony growers, and over 100 beekeepers are all partnering alongside the Farmer’s Market to make locally grown food storage a reality. Homer Foundation is proud to help!

Seldovia Community Preschool

We also awarded a $5,000 Quick Response Grant to support the Seldovia Community Preschool Student Tuition Assistance Program. This grant will assist families facing financial hardship in continuing their child’s education at the preschool. 

Seldovia Community Preschool is the only educational program for Seldovia’s children ages 3 to 5. SCP offers a curriculum that nurtures a young learner’s natural curiosity by carefully planning lessons to explore, problem solve, and to develop social, emotional and life skills.

The Tuition Assistance Program will be made available to every student in need of assistance.


Philanthropy Fact of the Month

Giving by bequest in 2021 was $46.01 billion in the United States, down 7.3% from 2020

September Newsletter: Watching the News

Update from the Executive Director

I am plagued by a lifelong interest in current affairs. Since I was a young boy I read newspapers and magazines in an effort by my young, immature mind to know and understand what was happening nationally and in far-flung corners of the globe. I was not afraid of these happenings, I just ….wanted to know. As I’ve gotten older I realize that so many factors outside of our control impact us in both legitimate and contrived ways. 

So what to do about that?  Much of what we see in the news is designed to grab our attention in the moment to keep us focused on that one small component. How do we combat the urge to stay focused on the small problem in front of us rather than the greater picture? By continually reorienting ourselves on the larger goal or mission. By staying focused on your goals and by always siding with long-term success over short-term increases.

We use the mission statement of the Homer Foundation, or any organization, not only as a  measurement of success but also as a guide when making decisions. By asking “Does this seemingly important thing advance the mission?”  If not, then it maybe it should be left for someone else to do.

Our mission is:

“… to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the greater Homer area by promoting philanthropic and charitable activities.”

That’s why even though the market may be down at the moment, we’re committed to continuing our long-term investment strategy and providing (and growing) a stable pillar of philanthropy on the southern Kenai Peninsula. It’s why we don’t try to fight every fight but stand and support the missions of our community, friends, and partners. 

What’s your mission?

Mike


Annual Picnic…Thank you to donors!

Shortly after last month’s newsletter came out we held our annual picnic. The event is open to all recent Homer Foundation donors, current and past board members. We love getting together to say thank you to this farsighted group of people. We especially want to thank Phil Morris for hosting the picnic at his home again, Ken Caster for cooking, as well as all the people who helped set up and tear it down.


Miss the Pick.Click.Give. Deadline?

If you meant to give part of your PFD this year but missed the Aug 31st deadline, no worries! If you want to be generous with your larger-than-normal PFD you can still give directly. Just follow the below link to donate today.  


Recent Grants
Homer High School Sports Cage $3,900

Homer High School applied for grant to help fund an indoor sports cage for the Homer High School gymnasium. It will serve the HHS baseball team which does not have access to a year-round batting cage of their own. This batting cage allows for setup and tear down in a matter of minutes and would also serve the softball team, little league players during open gym and clinics and other sports requiring an enclosed cage.  Batter up!

Homer Trails Alliance- $5,000

The Homer Trails Alliance (HTA) organized to advocate for trails, to coordinate safe walkability efforts with community partners, and to maintain and develop trails in the Homer area (north side of Kachemak Bay). Homer Trails Alliance volunteers have been doing some much needed repairs on The Homestead Trail.  Many of the original boardwalks are completely rotten and other areas are in desperate need of boardwalks to make hiking safer and drier. Signage has also been added which helps people navigate what can be a maze of trails! Some of the trail is through wet areas necessitating a board walk through some trail portions. 

The Alliance requested and was approved for a $5,000 grant to finish the main route to Reuben Call Bench. With the help of donated labor, The grant will fund a 250’ boardwalk three feet wide, which includes replacing a bridge over one of the major creeks.  


Philanthropy Fact of the Month

Ever noticed that people who are kind have a tendency to be happier and more content?

This is because when we do something kind for someone else, we feel good – which is due to the release of dopamine and oxytocin.

Dopamine is the reward chemical that is released by the brain and makes us feel good as a result of something that we perceive as positive.

Oxytocin, responsible for emotional warmth, reduces blood pressure and promotes other cardiovascular benefits. It also reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation, thus slowing ageing.

Kindness also has obvious social benefits, making for better friendships and relationships.

August Newsletter: Halibut Cove Live- many thanks!

Update from the Executive Director

Halibut Cove Live 2022 is in the books! After a three-year break, we had a wonderful weekend of events at Quiet Place Lodge.

These two special evenings of music, food and fun have been a key support for the Homer Foundation’s grants, scholarships and operations since 2012. Saturday evening was made more meaningful thanks to a $10,000 matching donation challenge by Diane Kaplan, CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation. The crowd rose to the occasion and gave over $11,500! Wow. This means we raised $21,500 more than we had expected. We are grateful to Diane Kaplan, the Rasmuson Foundation, and all of the donors for their generous support for the match.

On Sunday evening, we had a second challenge match offered by Paul Seaton that raised an additional $2,000 for the Foundation. This provided the perfect exclamation point on an exciting weekend of giving. Again, we thank Paul and the donors who graciously gave to support local enrichment through The Homer Foundation.

Thank you to our hosts Harmon and Pauli Hall of Quiet Place Lodge, to an amazing team of community volunteers  (who helped serve, set up, tear down and more) and to the following businesses for all of the support this year:

Chef Aaron Apling-Gilman | The Grog Shop | Homer Brewing | The Saltry Restaurant | Alaska Shellfish Farms | Snow White Linen Supply | Alaska Coastal Marine

Below is a picture of yours truly and some “fabulous ” volunteers.

Thanks again to everyone.

Mike


Pick.Click.Give.

Thank you to all those who selected the Homer Foundation as the recipient of a donation from your annual Permanent Fund Dividend. If you want to support us at any level, choose the Homer Foundation through Pick.Click.Give. until August 31st. 


Change to Grant Guidelines

As part of their annual review of policies, the Foundation Board of Trustees has made some adjustments to the Quick Response Grant policy and Community Grants Committee. If you want to review those changes you can find the on our website or just follow the link below.


Recent Grants

You have helped make a difference in your community! See how your support has impacted the world around you:

Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park

Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park are working with a local Boy Scout to complete his Eagle Scout project to build a platform for a yurt near the Diamond Creek Trailhead on the north side of Kachemak Bay State Park. This is an expansion to the available yurts in the park for public use and is going to be the first one located on the more populated side of the park. 

Pratt Museum

In January of 2022, the Pratt Museum began working with guest curator and Alaska Native artist, Anna Hoover, to organize an exhibition focused on Salmon Culture in Alaska Native communities. This exhibition aims to bring in voices of Alaska Native artists to create a collaborative exhibition (including opening event, artists panel, poetry event, online events, live radio program, community outreach to area villages, etc.) that celebrates the importance of salmon throughout Alaska. This exhibit will be located in the Pratt’s main Special Exhibits gallery space in the Pratt Museum and will open in October 2022.  We look forward this exhibit.


Philanthropy Fact of the Month

Real Estate comprises over 40% of the wealth in America but Real Estate comprises less than 2.0% of charitable giving.

Pay It Forward: Thank You, Anonymous

The following is an article in the Pay It Forward column published in the Homer News. This column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ www.homerfoundation.org and like us on Facebook.

When I moved to Homer as a young adult, my new neighbor, Walter Johnson, asked me a memorable and unusual question immediately after introducing himself.

“Which volunteer organizations in town are you working with?”  

The answer was none since my high school had required precisely 20 “volunteer” hours to graduate.  Work was for money. Money could be converted to donation, preferably tax deductible.

That winter I met Anonymous at the Homer Rope Tow on Ohlson Mountain.  I was relaxing between runs and he was shoveling snow into the towpath to cover the ice and make unloading safer.  We chatted, and he mentioned that there was going to be a ropetow meeting with pizza next week, and that the pizza meeting was a chance to meet some other ropetow users and that we’d eat pizza.  I agreed to think about the pizza, and it turned out that on Tuesday evening I was in the mood for some right about the time of the meeting.

As I and a few others enjoyed the slices, the situation was laid bare: most of the board of directors of the Ski Hill had dropped out, as their kids had grown out of it or they had watched ridership dwindle.  He needed a new board for the ropetow to continue to exist and I was holding his bait in my greasy hand.

“I just need a name to put on the paper that I file with the state.  And come to some meetings if you can,” he said. Not realizing that we would eventually be prying stumps out of the frozen soil in November rain, I agreed.

Volunteering with Anonymous and the other ropetow recruits was a revelation regarding what work meant.  The effort wasn’t convertible to money or proportionally to my own fun.  There certainly wasn’t always perceptible gratitude from the kids I had to remind about the rules.  There were occasionally dead ends, and significant effort for small or no gains in the quality of the hill.  

But there was the ability to watch and learn how Anonymous would scheme and plan, propose, cajole, and enlist others in his vision.  It was clear that this goal was worth working harder than one would for money, and small ideas for improvements started to creep into my mind in the wee hours.  I watched him bring other people to the hill and gesture to a future that they could help realize.

Pretty soon I was happily shoveling snow onto an icy towpath. Kids and adults came zinging by, probably not thinking about safety or yearly insurance costs. Perfect. Anonymous had brought me to the other side of wall in which giving felt better than getting.

A few years ago, Lydia Kleine and I were at the Homer Skatepark and were probably about the thousandth and thousand-and-first riders to complain about the park.  Whoops…still paying for that pizza! I knew exactly what Anonymous would do. We started Friends of the Homer Skatepark and managed to bring in two new halfpipes, as well as making some nice upgrades to the street skating area. Along the way we got to meet other people, anonymous and named, who were as eager to support our vision as we were to complete it.

Thanks Anonymous!  You taught me a lot.  And thanks to the Rotary volunteers who shepherd us through the Health Fair, those who dig hiking trails into rocky hillsides, serve on school committees, or have their shoulder to the wheel in so many ways that make Homer better.  I hope we can all pass it along.

George Overpeck is a local artist, philanthropist, and enthusiastic volunteer (and volunteer recruiter!)

Homer Nonprofits Provide Essential Services not provided by Municipalities

The following is an article in the Pay It Forward column published in the Homer News. This column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ www.homerfoundation.org and like us on Facebook.

I moved to Homer from Arizona eleven years ago. I was just out of college and living on my own for the first time in my life. I was instantly drawn to this town for its beautiful surroundings, but I have stayed here because of the community. I grew up in the suburbs of Tucson, Arizona, which was wonderful but I always knew I wanted to live in a small town. I think I found the best one around.

My family was not specifically philanthropic, or let me say, it was never instilled in me to be involved with non-profits. I am not sure if it was just not a focus for my family or that we lived in the suburbs so there were not many around. We had all the sports activities and summer camps, which I know now were probably funded by nonprofits. My thoughts have changed drastically because of Homer, our thriving non-profit community, and the love I have found in my job at the Homer Foundation.

Even though we are a small town at the end of the road, and I do love our city, borough, and state government and all the basic services it can provide, but we all know the municipalities, and more specifically their dollars, are stretched thin. Enter the nonprofits. Let’s think about the winter, do you love skiing? We have two nonprofits focusing on skiing. Or is it hockey or other indoor recreation? I can think of three that support those passions. Or are you an adrenaline junkie with a need for speed? Yep, we have nonprofits for those too. That is just the tip of the iceberg, and I feel like everyone I talk to has a different fabric of nonprofits to make up their own quilt of support, with so many opportunities here for a vibrant, resilient, fulfilled life.

Working for the Homer Foundation, I have become acutely aware of so many different programs, services, opportunities, and holes the nonprofits provide to go above and beyond those basic services provided by the municipalities. They may take care of the roads, but nonprofits help fill the roads with buildings and protected land. They also provide things to do for families and help those in need.

By our count, nonprofits provide over 100 jobs to our communities.  Those jobs provide a payroll of $4 million leveraging money from outside donors, and state and federal governments. They also bring in over $7.2 million in revenues to our communities.

You may not even realize something you love so much, like a trail you walk all the time, or a playground your family uses daily, the library with all of its services, or your favorite annual event, is probably provided by a nonprofit. I certainly did not, but now am so thankful for each and every one of the over 90 registered nonprofits within the area.

Some of these organizations are all volunteers with the biggest hearts while others do have paid staff. I see the entire spectrum to be valuable. I encourage you, next time you are out on the town or going somewhere, to ask if a nonprofit is involved. Look for a sign. Then I also encourage you to also think of how you might want to support them with your time, talent, or treasure. Help keep Homer the best community it can be because of our amazing nonprofits.

Lauren Seaton is the Executive Assistant at the Homer Foundation. She lives in Homer with her husband and daughter and you can frequently find them out on the water or on the trails.

Homer Trails Alliance – Connecting Community Through Trails

The following is an article in the Pay It Forward column published in the Homer News. This column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ www.homerfoundation.org and like us on Facebook.

As we have all witnessed these past few years, our little hamlet by the sea is experiencing some growing pains. What we once knew as moose calving habitat has become subdivisions.  Where we once strolled to visit a neighbor is now someone’s back yard.  Where we once watched in wonder the annual raising of a sand hill crane colt, there is now a parking lot.  Our little town is growing like we never imagined it would in our lifetimes.

We can dwell on the downsides some other time.  Our focus here is on the lessons we’ve learned from these rapid changes and acknowledgement of those who are working to preserve and improve upon the pedestrian and wildlife corridors that contribute so much to our quality of life.

Studies consistently indicate that communities connected by trails experience  increased levels of physical activity, reduced levels of disease and mortality risks, lower health care costs, increase in volunteerism, fund raising, sense of pride and belonging and increased road safety.  Additionally, there is a reduction in noise and air pollution, road deterioration and congestion.  These studies show that as trail systems grow their use becomes more frequent contributing to an increase in the number of nearby businesses established or expanded.  Overall cost to benefit ratios have been estimated to be as high as $3.55 annually, i.e. for every $1.00 spent on trails $3.55 of benefits are generated each year.

We would like to acknowledge our own City of Homer and their efforts to make downtown a more pedestrian friendly place to travel.  For example, the sidewalk addition to Main Street and the pedestrian lane added to the south side of the Eric Lane extension.  Both projects provide residents of the surrounding neighborhoods safe non-motorized links to Hornaday Park, the hospital and West Homer Elementary.  Also, kudos to Homer Draw Down volunteers for their work improving the many trails around town.

Great strides are being made outside of the city limits as well.  Any Nordic skiers out there can attest to our quality ski trails.  For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a winter without them.  We’ve come a long way over the past 40 years.  Today, Kachemak Nordic Ski Club maintains over 70 kilometers of trail from Rogers Loop over Diamond and Crossman Ridge and on to Lookout Mountain.  For east enders the McNeil trails are manicured regularly and provide some of the best late season Nordic skiing in the State. 

Summer hiking and biking is fabulous as well.  The State Park Diamond Creek single track and trail to the beach are huge attractions for both visitors and locals.  Shout out to Homer Cycling Club for their hard work in making this what might be the birthplace of Homer single track.

The Homestead Trail, a longtime locals favorite, winds through berry bogs and hills of wildflowers from Rogers Loop to the reservoir.  Thanks to Homer Trails Alliance, KNSC, Boy Scout Troop 555, and very generous private land owners working together, the Homestead Trail continues to be expanded and improved upon.  Much thanks to the 100 Women Who Care for their financial support.

In closing, we must remember that trails don’t just happen, though they do happen to make our community a better place to live.  We encourage you to make your contributions, be it monetary or volunteer labor and to get out and enjoy the trails.

For more information about HTA visit us on Facebook or email homertrailsalliance@gmail.com

A trail built by and for a community

The following is an article in the Pay It Forward column published in the Homer News. This column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ www.homerfoundation.org and like us on Facebook.

Our floatplane motored past peaks protruding through pillows of cloud. I was sure we’d get turned back to Homer again, until the pilot dropped into a fog-free Port Dick, then slipped around the corner to drop four of us at the beach at Taylor Bay.

My fellow passengers were hiking Tutka Backdoor, while I was running it ahead of them. I took every step of the 32 mile line to Jakolof Bay alone, keeping company with the echoes of dozens of people. In one spot, I remembered a crew rolling boulders into place with rock bars. In another, we’d spent hours taking out a salmonberry thicket. I remembered the shivering soggy camaraderie in the week of pouring rain, the chainsawing run that went past midnight, and all of the impossibly terrible bushwhacks in the places the trail didn’t end up going. Each cut mark, each bit of tread, had a story, and a person, behind it.

Building a trail across the steep and crumpled country of the outer Kenai Peninsula was a crazy idea that only became possible because the community embraced it. In five years, over 100 people, adults and kids, spent nearly 1500 person days building Tutka Backdoor.

Trails have always been about community. Historically, most of our trails were built informally by hunters and travelers. The trails that survive are the ones that continue to be embraced by their communities. Our ecology isn’t kind to trails. Mud slides and washouts take them out, devil’s club bristle over them, beetle-killed forests fall on them, salmonberries lock their thorny canes across them, and even a bloom of pushki and ferns can render them invisible.

In the past couple decades, I’ve watched trails around Seldovia and in Kachemak Bay Park disappear. Some were old logging roads. Others were designed as trails. The ones that thrive are the ones the community cares for, whether it’s the Friends of Kachemak Bay Park keeping Grace Ridge and Sadie Knob clear, the Homer Drawdown group clearing trails in town, or Seldovia residents taking it upon ourselves to keep our own local trails in shape.

We’ve learned a lot about how to build trails better since the early days of informal hunting trails. But community labor is as important as ever to keep trails open, safe, and amazing. The Homer Foundation has generously provided a grant that will allow us to bring together professional trail experts, community volunteers, and park staff on an expedition this summer to plan for the best future of Tutka Backdoor. We hope it will provide not just a plan for this trail, but a model for how to bring community to all our trails.

Brent Higman