Budget Alert: Local Department Of Natural Resources Office Threatened With Closures Or Cutbacks

Cutbacks May Be In The Works For Our DNR Office

An Out-of-Control Forest Fire Rampages Through A Black Spruce Forest. 
The Copper River Valley's tiny Tazlina DNR office is being threatened by the imminent budget cutbacks this year. For its size, this is one of the most important offices in Alaska.  If you want to do something about it, write to your legislators, or contact the Legislative Information Office.

Black Spruce Have Only One Goal: To Burn.
The Tazlina DNR service area is at least as large as all of West Virginia. It serves land off of multiple highways, with access by all kinds of people: Local residents, careless hunters with campfires, RVers, teenagers, ATVers back in the backcountry...

The Copper Valley is linked to one of the most important game units in Alaska. And, it's in an area that is highly susceptible to forest fires -- due to its massive mature-growth stands of scrubby black spruce, densely packed together. The region is a tinderbox, ready to happen -- and all of our small towns, villages, settlements and communities would be in the way if a large forest fire were to occur.

The last really large fire in the region was the Wilson Camp Lightning Fire of 1983, which was located on the other side of the Copper River, and spewed ash up into the air in front of Mount Drum, in columns that looked like an atomic bomb had blown up.

As many rural Alaskans know, the entire purpose of a black spruce is to grow to a twisted, dry little tree -- and then catch on fire, tossing its pitch-filled "witch's broom" high into the air on a forest fire updraft, so it can travel miles away and replant itself. Photos, Bearfoot.

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Parks Place To Continue After Omni Leaves Multiple Supermarkets In Alaska

Are You Going Away With No Word Of Farewell?               

Park Kriner Vows To Keep Parks Place Open After Omni Enterprises Walks Out On Supermarkets All Over Alaska

The Parks Place Deli was added when Omni came on board.

Parks Place, which leased its store to Omni Enterprises in July, 1994, is back on its own. The Omni Organization, after 20 years in Glennallen, walked away suddenly in mid-March.

It didn't just leave the Glennallen Store in the lurch. It left all of its Omni stores, all over Alaska. Most notable was an Omni store known as "Swanson's" in the coastal town of Bethel. On March 9th, there were news stories all over the internet and television. The Swanson's store, which had cost the Bethel Native Corporation $20 million to build, and which opened to the public last summer with enormous fanfare, immediately began selling all the Omni inventory at 50% off, drawing people into the store to spend thousands of dollars. The Bethel store had featured a large food court, a floral section, and even an indoor grill (kind of like a high-end university food service.) Plus, two movie theaters.

A sign over the front door at Park's Place shows its history.
First it was "Park's Place." Then it was "Omni." Now it's "IGA."
It'll remain an IGA-supplied store, according to owner Park Kriner, who has taken it back. 
Scores of employees were suddenly out of work, and a rapid response team from the Alaska Department of Labor was sent to Bethel to help 80 of them find assistance, or another job.

The store in Big Lake owned by Omni, known as the Big Lake IGA (and previously known as 'Steve's Food Boy') was also abandoned. It left 25 employees worried about their future. But, by March 19th, Three Bears -- a statewide chain that once ran a supermarket in Valdez -- was reported to have stepped in to take over the Big Lake IGA.

The future of Parks Place is not certain yet, but Park Kriner, its longtime owner, said he is restocking the store, and will not close it. On March 21st, the new credit card machines hadn't been put in place yet, so customers were being asked to pay cash in the meantime during the transition.

American Village of Alaska, owners of the Hub and the Caribou, built the store.  It's a "new" store. The original Parks Place building, which dated back into Pipeline years, is across the highway, towards the junction with the Richardson. The old building currently houses apartments and a laundry.

Park Kriner said several outside companies are looking at taking over the store.

There aren't many Alaska roadside supermarkets the size of Parks Place -- or as comprehensive in what they offer. Interestingly, most "large" rural supermarkets north of Anchorage are restricted to the eastern side of the state, where the Copper Valley lies. That's because most of the population base in Interior Alaska between Wasilla-Palmer and Fairbanks is over on our side of the state -- not in the well-known "Railbelt," which is very sparsely populated, and includes the towns of Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Cantwell, Denali Park, Healy & Nenana.

There are 4 substantial supermarkets in Eastern Alaska: In Delta, Tok, Valdez and Glennallen -- all population bases with year-round communities.

There's an IGA in Delta Junction that's relatively large. There's the Three Bears Store -- the flagship of
Fresh fruits and vegetables at Parks Place (Omni) IGA
the Three Bears Chain -- in Tok. Valdez has an Eagle Quality Store -- a form of Carrs/Safeway that's one step down from the large stores in Anchorage. And then there's Parks Place IGA in Glennallen (as well as Spark's down the street, which also sells groceries.)

That's a lot of supermarkets for this side of Alaska. It's a tangible sign of two things: A relatively large population base, and year-round stability.

On the Parks Highway, there are far longer stretches without a supermarket, once you get north of Wasilla. The Big Lake IGA is followed by another supermarket, the independently-run Cubby's, at the corner of the junction to Talkeetna, 100 miles north of Anchorage. Then -- for hundreds of miles, until you get to Fairbanks -- there is no large supermarket of any kind; only several small gas station convenience stores, and the venerable, but relatively modest Coghill's General Store in Nenana. The Parks Highway does not have the year-round population base that the communities on the Glenn and Richardson Highways have, and even the (seasonal) region near Denali Park can't support a supermarket comparable to any of the ones in Tok, Delta, Glennallen and Valdez.

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KCAM Will Hold Spring EMS Auction From March 24th - March 26th

Join In And Support The Region's Emergency Medical Services!

Copper River EMS Sent The Following Information To Chamber Members:

The 31st Annual Copper River EMS Radio Auction starts Tuesday (24th), and continues Wednesday (25th), and Thursday (26th) 6-9pm at the Fireweed Grill live on KCAM Radio.

Each night, radio auctioneers will “open” the items to be bid on starting at 6 p.m.  Once they have opened the items, bids can be placed.  “100” items will be opened the first day, “200” items the second day, and “300” items the third day.

You can bid by calling in bids at 822-5215, or by coming to the Fireweed Grill and placing bids (by paper) in person.  If you want to know what the current high bid is for any item(s), you can call and ask.  

If you are at the live auction, just raise your hand, and a “runner” will come to collect your bid slips. For those at the auction, high bids can be found on the white board at the back of the room.  

High bids will be recorded and items sold at the end of the night, beginning at 8:40 p.m.  Once the radio auctioneer has announced “Bidding Closed”, phones will be taken off the hook and no more bids will be collected from the floor.  Results will be tabulated, and the high bidder for each item will be announced on the radio.  Most items will be sold on the night they are opened, but a few items will be carried over to be bid on the following night(s). 

For bid list with up-to-the day additions and for pictures of items, go to or download on Face book at the Copper Valley Salecycle page. 

The auction line (822-5215) is only available during the hours bidding is open.  If you have questions at other times, please call 822-3671 or 259-3515.  Thank you!

Side note: Matt Lorenz, Eric Lutz, and Dave Abbott will be “Paying the Piper” for the $2,000 hair/henna challenge that was met at the close of last year’s auction. Matt and Eric have hair to dye and Dave has a bald head for henna.

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List Of Items Being Auctioned By Copper River EMS Auction Beginning March 24th

Here Comes The Emergency Medical Service Auction! It's A Three-Day Event, From March 24th-March 26th


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Jerry Isaac, New CEO Of CRNA To Speak At Thursday Meeting, March 26th at Tonsina Lodge

CRNA's Jerry Isaac

CEO Of CRNA To Speak

Jerry Isaac (who was born and raised at Tanacross, an Athabascan village near Tok, up the road from the Copper Valley) will be talking with the Chamber of Commerce at its March 26th dinner meeting at Tonsina Lodge.  

Jerry Isaac started working at CRNA, as the CEO, in January, 2015. He had gone to Tok High School, attended Chemawa School in Oregon, and took university courses before going on to a working career. He has been a trapper, a laborer and an oil field worker.

The Tanana and Ahtna people are very close. There are cultural and familial ties between the Ahtna and all its surrounding peoples. Jerry has relatives in the Copper Valley region that go way back. 

Before starting at CRNA, Jerry Isaac was the president and tribal administrator of the village of Tanacross. Then he went on as president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. He served with Tanana Chiefs starting in 2006, and finished his term in March of 2014.

As CEO of CRNA, he oversees a number of new projects in CRNA's social and health services delivery. One of these is a program of agricultural development. CRNA is interested in cooperating and partnering with Ahtna, Inc. regarding local agricultural potential in the region. 

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Glennallen Boys & Girls Rush To State Championship Victories In March Basketball Madness

Great Basketball By Both Glennallen Teams As Boys Wins Back-To-Back Championships

Glennallen High School.

The mid-March Class 2A basketball tournament in Anchorage saw a clean sweep by Glennallen's High School basketball teams this season.

The Panther Girls beat the Metlakatla Girls, 51-39 at the new Alaska Airlines Center. It was a decisive -- and historic -- victory. Big winners for the girls were Sierra Virgin, with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. She was closely followed by Tamra Jones, with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals.

The Panther Boys were evenly matched with the Dillingham Wolverines. At first, it looked like they might not win, but then, in the second half, Glennallen pushed its way past the Wolverines, beating them 38 to 35 -- and recapturing the top team title that Glennallen also won last year. Great plays by Camero Peters, with 10 rebounds and Jordan Sondergaard, with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals led to the victory.

The Panther Girls are coached by Jim Lorence. The Panther Boys are coached by James Fields. 

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New Copper Valley Road Projects: Summit Lake & Long Lake Hill

DOT Works On Addressing The Problems Of Two Incoming Roads: The Glenn Highway & The Northern Richardson Highway

Between A Rock & A Hard Place: Dealing With Incoming Copper Valley Roads.
This Is A Rocky Cliff On The Glenn Highway.

When Jim Colver, one of the region's new legislators, came to the Legislative Information Office (LIO) early in March, he discussed some of the road projects and problems that affect local residents.

Summit Lake Road Construction This Summer

In Winter, That Area Near Summit Lake Is Lonely
There will be two sections of the north Richardson, north of Summit Lake slated for rebuilding this summer, to improve the width of the road, and straighten curves.

The Problem Of Long Lake Hill On The Lower Glenn

Long Lake.
As Copper Valley people know, the area at Long Lake Hill -- between Mile 66 and 92 of the Glenn -- continues to be a perennial problem. That part of the road is perched on a mountainside, with cliffs dropping off toward the Matanuska River on one side of the road, and the mountain climbing up off the road on the other.  On one side of the highway, you can easily skid off, over the edge, and plummet down into the hundreds of feet deep ravine. But the other side of the road delivers boulders and rocks onto the highway, sometimes smashing the asphalt with their force. Last winter, road crews with bulldozers were out on the Long Lake stretch very frequently, pushing boulders off the highway and over the edge of the hill.

There has been a lot of talk about Long Lake Hill for years. According to Legislator Jim Colver, the original plan at Long Lake was to expand the roadway, by digging into the upward side of the mountain.

But currently, the DOT Commissioner and planners are looking at changing the design, to go around on the south side of Long Lake -- avoiding the hill completely. 

One Side Of The Glenn Is Rocks, The Other Side Is
Terrifying Drop-offs -- Often With No Guardrails.
The plan that is now under consideration does not go all the way to the Matanuska River; that option involves a very expensive bridge. The possible new route would curve back around and rejoin the existing Richardson Highway road on the east side of the lake.

One benefit of the new plan is the road could be constructed without disrupting traffic. And one of the obstacles is that State Parks has to be convinced to allow the project to pass through some State Park lands. 

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Coming Up: March 26th Chamber Dinner Meeting To Be Held At Tonsina Lodge Starting At 5:30 PM

Come On Down To Tonsina Lodge For A Great Party!

Tonsina Lodge: Location of the March 26th Greater Copper Valley Chamber Of Commerce Dinner.

The next Chamber Dinner Meeting will be held on Thursday, March 26th, at Tonsina Lodge on the Richardson Highway, past Squirrel Creek Campground.

Dinner will be -- as always at Tonsina -- a wonderful blend of homemade foods, which you can choose from. The speaker is Jerry Isaac, of CRNA.

Contact Sourdough Joe for details, and sign up for coming to the meal.
Call 822-3566 or 816-316-0645.  Or, call 320-1145.

Here's the official information:

Full buffet with numerous food options (something for everyone)  Water or coffee included Price:  $28.00      5:30 social     6:30 dinner

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