Copper River Country Stories Map Project
By Vicki Penwell
On January 21 and 22, people from around Copper Country met to formulate a work plan for developing a Copper River Country Stories Map and Guide.
According to Kristin Smith of the Copper River Watershed Project (CRWP), based in Cordova, the idea for the guide came about nine years ago when she and others were working on a tourism project and were inspired by the rich collection of diverse stories to be told from the Copper River headwaters to the delta. It occurred to them that a project could be developed that would “help communities guide tourism growth rather than be driven by it.”
Last July, Copper Valley Development Association (CVDA) and the Copper River Watershed Project submitted a request for assistance for such a project to the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Along with RTCA, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Prince William Sound Community College (PWSCC), a core group began formulating a vision statement and plan for community meetings that would gather input from residents and local groups.
In January of this year, eleven people attended the kick off session held at the Copper Valley Development Association office in Tazlina. Smith, along with Katrina Church-Chmielowski of PWSCC and Heather Rice of RTCA, introduced the concept and lead small group discussions about map elements, map style and potential stories. Participants agreed that there was a need for a product directed at tourists that would include information about historic events, trails, natural history landmarks and other features of Copper River Country.
Rice, who facilitated both meetings, found that “participants were looking for a way to share the story of the region with an authentic voice. Something different than existing maps that participants felt were focused on simply navigating the area and finding businesses.”
The Copper River region is not included in many Alaska tourist guides, and many travelers simply “pass through” with no knowledge of the unique features or visitor opportunities available.
Katrina Church-Chmielowski points out that there is no single product that introduces people to the people and features of the 23,020 square mile Copper River Country. She says, “Visitors piecemeal together information they need to explore and learn about the area. The Copper River Country Stories Map will fill this gap.”
After the all day workshop on January 22 held at the Glennallen VFW, a plan for moving forward emerged with a goal of having a printed map available for the summer of 2010. Smith says that she hopes to find funding so that the first printing of the guide can be distributed to visitors free of charge. The group envisioned a potential suite of products that would include web based information as well as hard copy products available at local businesses.
The Copper River Country Stories Map and Guide working group is intended to include additional participants as the project develops. The next meeting will take place some time late in March. Those interested in participating should contact the CVDA at 822-5001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those unfamiliar with Alaska, there is NO official Copper Country. This is a new term introduced by these groups. Our area has NO borough or municipal government, and we are officially lumped into a 22 million acre area labeled as the Valdez-Cordova census area.
Here's one of the responses I got after I sent the mapping group a copy of my business map, and I now have a pdf file of the Kenny Lake Community Plan. Nobody I know here in Kenny Lake knows it exists... so duh, I'm back to the old "What Plan?" conversation:
I was cc'd on some of the communications going on regarding the Copper River Stories Map Project. I wanted to clarify and suggest a few things about business outreach here and the map project.
There IS a large void in outreach materials for our local visitors. The last regional map was produced by the Chamber in 2004? that had business support and advertising around the margins. The Camber did not complete a subsequent edition when those were exhuasted. It was funded by business contributions.
Our organization also produced a Buisiness and Community guide (booklet form, not a map) in early 2003 that didn't get enough business support, and was funded partly by our organiziation. It has also not been reprinted. It is thought that paper materials such as that are often outdated as soon as they are printed.
There is also a Bearfoot Guides that is done by Linda and Jeremy Weld updated yearly. It also puts information for businesses who pay for advertising. The Milepost does the same and includes a few community events such as the KL Fair.
The Chamber has been working the last year or so to update their web site to include information about the Copper Valley and their member businesses. They are ready to launch that soon.
Non-profits such as CVDA and the CR Watershed Project have also gotten up web sites as does Julie Williamson. coppervalley.org, copperriver.org and bushpipeline.com
CVDA website does our own news, a community calendar and links. We would like to add links to businesses, but haven't gotten there yet. We do not charge for links, and have linkages to our partners that assist with our projects.
Two years ago, Liz Rietveld from the Fishing Widow initiated a map for the Copper Center businesses. Each business or organization who wanted to be on the map contributed $150 -$500 (Princess and NPS contributed more) . I have attached last year's map for your review in case you haven't seen it. It is also available on our web site.
Last year CVDA wrote to businesses in the Copper Valley to see if they wanted a map for their area such as Gakona, Kenny Lake, etc. We didn't get enough response to get another developed. It is definitely something we would help with and support enough businesses wanted us to help with the administration of this.
Chitina Chamber of Commerce has developed a small tri-fold and Cheesh'na Tribal Council got funding for a brochure about Chistochina that was printed 3-4 years ago. Business outreach for the Kenny Lake Area came up in the Community Planning process that I helped facilitate. As you can see the many concerns and ideas in the document that I have attached.
The communities and businesses here always need enthusiastic people to initiate things as you have done with your map. Again, CVDA would be able to help organize the businesses if you think 10-12 would want a KL community/business map and get 5,000 or so printed for 2009 season. We do not have funding unless contributions come from businesses.
As for the "Stories" Map
First, this was conceived a while ago by the Copper River Watershed Project and has received technical advice from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program. Currently, there are no grants or monies that have been secured to create the products for the map stories project. Supporters have attended some scoping and planning meetings which were held here in January. The Copper Valley Development Association is a partner and has contributed some staff time and $50 for snacks at the January meeting.
Since that meeting, one proposal has been submitted to the Alaska Geographic for a possible publication. Marnie Graham with BLM also DRAFTED an outreach plan which was probably a bit premature to post on a blog.
With an area this vast, it is hard to encapsulate all on one map. The idea was to have a regional focus for general areas of interest to draw and keep tourists here. We wanted to show what made our area interesting and unique through our stories and histories. Businesses could be linked in as there may be other electronic venues associated with the project IF funding allows, but wouldn't be on the map per se.
I hope this helps to clarify what has been going on in our region. Again, we would be happy to help KL businesses and organizations to develop a local map for visitors. I was unaware of the KL Blog! Thanks for the heads up. Have you read the Copper Country Collection cookbook that I helped write for our PTO? It has a lot of local information that you might want to share with visitors.
RC&D Coordinator-Copper Valley Development Association
Temporary contact as of January 12, 2009
Phone: (907) 822-5001 Fax: 822-5009
Mile 111 Richardson Hwy-CVDA offices in Tazlina
Mail and email same:
HC 60 Box 52, Copper Center, AK 99573
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The first line of the Kenny Lake Community Plan is a lie:
"The Greater Kenny Lake area is a supportive community where we respect our colorful diversity of people and decide things together." (So what explains why so few people from Kenny Lake attended these planning meetings?)
On page 5, the vision for Kenny Lake gets almost funny:
"There is a spirit of individualism combined with a sense of commitment to family and community in Kenny Lake."
What is a "spirit of individualism?" Is it compatible with a commitment to community? Wouldn't it be amazing if the KL vision said the truth as I see it, which is more like:
There are basically two kinds of people in Kenny Lake.
Group One: My friends, who are the traditional Alaskans who hunt, fish, trap and grow, the ones who love their gossip but still know how to mind their own business and don't try to tell anyone else what to do, unless they're asked for advice, and then they may never stop talking....
Group Two: is the people I really don't know at all, this very organized group of federal and state employees, fundamentalist Christians, New Age Indians, global ngo-UN affiliates and retired No Child Left Behind teachers who want to tell everyone what to do and teach us all how to become more responsible global citizens.
Group One lives like Alaskans. Group Two promotes all the UN goals for retraining backwards Alaskan locals (in Group One) how to think and act globally. We actually have anti-fur people here "teaching" us about the changing economics of trapping! (Tim Redington and Dean Wilson Sr., two local trappers who make and sell traps, who still actively trap here and are well-known around Alaska and the world, are NOT included in these "lessons" about trapping.) Tim says he thinks all the tree huggers should have to move out of their big log houses and into eco-friendly tents like me!