Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

KENAI FJORDS NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA

The deluxe Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge spans an area of 10 square acres and is the only lodge in the Kenai Fjords National Park. This 670,000-acre pristine national park was established by the United States National Park Service to protect the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in North America.

 

Owned by Port Graham Native Corporation, these heritage lands represent a small portion of the ancestral homeland of the Alutiiq people that once lived along and roamed the entire coast of South Central Alaska.

 

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge was built in 2008 to the east of the Pedersen Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary, a 1700 acre site created in partnership with Alaskan Natives to protect local marine and wildlife species. The Lodge was built following the strictest eco-tourism guidelines in order to retain the natural beauty of the lands and waters. It is owned and operated by Alaska Wildland Adventures (AWA), a small group, big experience Alaskan tour specialist founded in 1977, who are dedicated to sustainable ecotourism that connects people to ecologically and culturally significant landscapes in Alaska.

 

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The Glacier Lodge is located on the south coast of Alaskas Kenai Peninsula and is in an area protected by the Pederson Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary. To the east of the Pederson Lagoon lies the waters of Aialik Bay, a glacier-fed fjord, while to the west lies rugged coastal mountains and icefields.

 

Guests arrive first at Seward, which is the closest community to Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, and then take a boat around 45 miles for three hours to reach the Lodge itself. Group tours visiting the lodge are intentionally kept small, with an average of 16 guests arriving/departing each day of the short 100 day season. Staying at the Glacier Lodge is designed to be an environmental and cultural education programme for adults, where respecting and understanding the natural and human history of the area is at the core of its ethos.

 

Much of the lowland area of the Sanctuary was under ice until about 1885. The recession of the glacier created a biologically rich area with harbor seals, sea otters, river otters, black bears, bald eagles, oystercatchers and a variety of other birds. The Lodge is surrounded by a rich estuary ecosystem and a dynamic outer coast environment. It also has ready access to the sheltered Pederson Lagoon and the magnificent Pederson Glacier.

 

In the early 1980s, the National Park Service realised how precious the land surrounding the lagoon was and tried to purchase the area back from Port Graham Corporation. The Corporation respectfully turned down all such offers because they wished to hold onto their heritage lands where their elders and ancestors once roamed, lived, and hunted.

 

www.kenaifjordsglacierlodge.com

 

The 4Cs

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge joined The Long Run in 2017 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs Conservation, Community, Culture, and Commerce as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.

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CONSERVATION

Following strictest eco-tourism guidelines, Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge was built with the highest care for the environment. Protective tundra mats were used during construction, and guest cabins were strategically arranged using a peekabooeffect within existing forested areas to minimise environmental impact.

 

In partnership with National Park Service and other key agencies, Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge assists and supports various ongoing conservation efforts, including marine debris clean-up, invasive flora species eradication, seabird surveys and oystercatcher nesting oversight and reporting.

 

Each year, AWA contributes $25,000-35,000 in trip services to non-profit organisations through fundraising events, such as auctions and raffles. AWA also encourages guests to contribute $2 a day, which is then collected and evenly distributed to four or five specified organisations that work to protect the surrounding areas. This tends to amount to $8,000-$12,000 in funds collected annually.

 

The Lodge also ensures the surrounding habitat; when walking trails are laid out they re-grow moss and other vegetation in areas that needed restoring. By day the Lodge operates on the propane generator and surplus power charges a bank of batteries. By night, the Lodge operates strictly on battery power, reducing fossil fuel use and eliminating generator noise for 10-12 hours a day. Future plans include solar and tidal power options, as they become practical in this remote locale. All appliances in the cabins are energy efficient and the cabins themselves are designed to maximize daylight savings.

COMMUNITY

AWA and Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge are very involved in the greater community. Kirk, AWAs president, serves on the board of the Alaska Travel Industry Association and is an advisor and founding member of Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association. Other key staff are board members of Onward and Upward, a non-profit that provides outdoor education for local youth at risk in Alaska, and the Alaska Avalanche School, a non-profit dedicated to providing avalanche awareness education and outreach across the state.

 

The Glacier Lodges operates in harmony with the surrounding natural environment and local Alutiiq community. Following the ecotourism philosophy, the Glacier Lodge has pledged to recruit locally whenever possible and offers internships and job opportunities to local college students and graduates. Existing staff receive regular training workshops that revisit new eco-practices.

 

Seward has benefited economically throughout the construction and operations of the Lodge. Local businesses were and continue to be hired to transport materials to the site, and most of the building materials were purchased through an Alaska-based company which had a branch in Seward. The Glacier Lodge makes a concerted effort to hire employees from the Seward area.

 

One of the biggest impacts the Glacier Lodge has on the surrounding community is helping the people of Port Graham reduce their reliance on consumptive industries by promoting sustainable ecotourism as a viable business opportunity.

 

CULTURE

The Alutiiq are hunting and fishing people for whom the gathering of plants is a secondary but important pursuit. One of the goals of Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge is to work with the residents of Port Graham to share their rich cultural heritage with all visitors.

 

The Glacier Lodge has created special interpretive programs and activities to honor authentic Alutiiq traditions, such as kayaking and group canoeing. Future programs are in the works with Alutiiq elders and scholars to educate guests on the importance of oral traditions, through occasional gatherings at the lodge where Port Graham residents may share stories and plant lore with guests.

 

The Glacier Lodge is currently growing its cultural component to increase engagement of the Alutiiq community, to allow them to tell their story as theyd like to have it told.

COMMERCE

Through Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodges partnership with Port Graham Native Corporation, a small visitor fee is set forth based on the length of a lodge stay. These funds are passed through to the Corporation each summer for direct benefit to the local economy and traditional inhabitants of the lands and waters.

 

The visitor fee application allows for an open dialogue with and education for travelers from the Lodges staff, thereby creating an incentive for community support and preservation of wild areas and cultural traditions.

 

Guests are also provided an opportunity to participate in a voluntary $2 a Day for ConservationFund, with monies donated directly to location Alaskan conservation groups, such as Alaska Center for the Environment, Alaska Conservation Foundation, and others.

 

In addition to funding conservation efforts with profits, Glacier Lodge also contributes to local non-profit organizations that work to protect the area, with a portion of the annual contributions going to the Alaska SeaLife Center, the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, Cook Inlet Keeper, and Kachemak Heritage Land Trust.

 

From as early on as 1987, the founders of AWA pledged to not only operate in an environmentally conscious manner but to commit to pledging a portion of profits to both employee profit-sharing and cash contributions to non-profit organisations that work to protect wilderness in Alaska, upon which the company depends.

 

Twenty years ago, Seward was a struggling fishing and logging community with dwindling resources, disappearing jobs, and few prospects for the future. With the arrival of Kenai Fjords National Park, the economy grew and stabilised as it shifted towards a travel and tourism economy blended with remnants of commercial fishing and other economic opportunities.

 

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