By Katherine Schake
Thousands of visitors and residents venture along the Seward Oceanfront Bike Path year-round, including local and visiting school groups. Pedestrians may not realize they are walking along the first mile of the National Historic Iditarod Trail, or that humpback whales may be sighted from the shores of Resurrection Bay. The handicap-accessible paved trail provides opportunity to view the Alaska railroad terminal while observing salmon, otters, seabirds and glaciers. Educating the public about the cultural and natural history of the area enhances one’s experience and facilitates connection to the landscape.
Throughout the past month, the City of Seward has been installing new interpretive signs along the bike path within the Municipal Waterfront Park. Originally installed in the mid-90’s these signs informed visitors of Seward’s history and the rich ecological value of the region. After twenty years of exposure to the elements the signs were tired and worn, in dire need of a facelift. Therefore, in 2017 the Kenai Mountain-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area granted the City $13,000 to redesign, replace and install seven interpretive signs along the path.
“Our goal as a local team – writers, photographers, graphic artists, reviewers and City Parks & Recreation – was to help people walking the spectacular 1 mile bike path develop a sense of place – our place,” reflected Madelyn Walker, Team Coordinator & Interpretive Writer.
A collaborative community effort, the City hired a local team of interpretive professionals to complete the text and illustrations of the new signs: Karin Sturdy, Madelyn Walker, Katy Larkin, and longtime Seward resident and professional photographer Ron Neibrugge. All work was approved by a committee of representatives from Seward Parks and Recreation Department, the Alaska SeaLife Center, Kenai Fjords National Park, and the community at large. An additional $14,700 of matching funds were leveraged for this project.
“For me, working with this team was a way to give back to the community from which I feel like I’ve received support, friendship and a sense of home,” said Katy Larkin, Graphic Designer. “I drew inspiration from the photographs provided by Ron Niebrugge, the carefully crafted words of Madelyn and Dan Walker, and my own memories of experiencing Resurrection Bay for the first time.”
Panels were designed using the KMTA template, and diverse themes are represented including: The Founding of Seward, Railroad Days, Fishing Industry, Marine Mammals, Salmon Cycle, Tides, Birds, Mount Alice, and the 1964 Earthquake.
“The City of Seward is grateful for educators and business partners who passionately share the world’s wonders with neighbors and travelers from around the globe,” said Karin Sturdy, Recreation Director at the City of Seward. “The community of Seward thanks KMTA for their mission, vision and successes through our Kenai Mountains corridors.”
KMTA supports projects that recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic, scenic, and natural recreational resources and cultural landscapes of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm historic transportation corridor. To learn more about how to apply for grants, visit https://www.kmtacorridor.org/grants/