Local girl scout, Sierra Ellemberger, has been working for over a year planning, fundraising and implementing improvements to the Echo Bend Camping area. She has built benches, cleaned up brush with her troop members, and created a second camping area that backpackers can use complete with a food storage locker, fire ring, benches and clearing for tents. Echo Bend is located 3 miles from the Nature Center along the Historic Iditarod/Crow Pass Trail and is a popular spot for backpackers. Many thanks to Sierra for all her hard work!
JoAnn Jackson (1937-April 24, 2021) and her husband Francis Jackson spent two winters at the Nature Center as our volunteers in residence. After their retirement they spent 20 years as full time RVers, traveling from Mexico to Alaska. They volunteered as campground hosts at 13 agencies throughout 18 states. The Nature Center was fortunate to have JoAnn and Francis as our full time winter hosts - greeting visitors and helping us in so many ways. We extend our deepest condolences to Francis and their children, grandchildren and family on their loss.
Gail Ann Somerville
February 13, 1944 - May 22, 2021
We are all saddened by the news of Gail's passing this past week. Gail was a cherished long-time volunteer at the Eagle River Nature Center. When Gail walked into the Nature Center with her enormous smile and positive energy, everyone around her lit up. She made all our special events, from our annual auctions to our Historic Iditarod Days and Night with the Stars, so much fun. We always laughed that Gail could not erase her smile even when we were posing for a circa 1918 group photo that we wanted everyone to take on a serious face.
Gail spent 35 years as a teacher at Denali Elementary School and volunteered for many years for the Iditarod, the Last Frontier Motorcyle Club, and the Eagle River Nature Center. She was cherished by her family and all her students and friends. A special event will never be the same without Gail. You brought joy to so many of us. Thank you Gail.
We will have a Celebration of Gail's Life at the Nature Center later this summer.
Eagle River Rotary members Felix, Krystine, Rusty and Melody helped us clean up one of our long neglected garden beds in the parking lot on May 20, 2021. Rotary members have been helping with this for over 15 years, plus making generous donations to purchase flowers to beautify the entry and deck area. Thank you also to our summer staff member and garden guru Timothy for heading up the effort and taking this photo.
Friends of Eagle River Nature Center turns 25 in May 2021. Time to celebrate!
From May through December 2021, we'll celebrate by hosting monthly events for our community members and visitors. On September 18th we'll have a big celebration under a tent at the Nature Center with food, music and magic. Save the date! We'll keep you posted as the plans unfold.
Thank you to all our fantastic volunteers and supporters for keeping the magic happening!
We'd like to thank TOTE (Totem Ocean Trailer Express) for their continued generous support of our Jr. Naturalist Program. TOTE has been a long-time corporate supporter of our mission. Thanks to TOTE, thousands of children have had the opportunity to attend our weekend natural history programs.
Every year, we have the very difficult task of selecting a few volunteers to receive the honor of "Volunteers of the Year". This year was no different, because we have so many volunteers that fit the bill each year. So we go down the list of volunteers, looking at how many years they've served and/or how many hours of volunteer service they have contributed. We joke that as long as you remain a volunteer, we'll get to naming you Volunteer of the Year at some time.
This year we chose three special people: Susan Walker, Tom Iverson and Timothy Kane. Susan has volunteered in many capacities for over 20 years. She's a regular contributor to our auctions, volunteers at special events, and has served as the Secretary for the Board for many years. Tom has been a weekly trail volunteer fora number of years, doing whatever is needed come rain, snow or shine. Timothy was our summer 2019 volunteer in residence devoting upwards of 300 hours that summer. The following season he was hired to help Colin at the front desk - which moved to the outdoors as the pandemic spread. However, he continued to volunteer many more hours - gardening, helping visitors on the trails, and just plain ol' spreading his enthusiasm for Alaska and the Nature Center.
We can't thank Susan, Tom and Timothy enough for all they have done in service of our Alaskan community. The Nature Center could not function and flourish without them.
The Nature Center has been working on solving our parking challenges since 1997. When Friends of Eagle River Nature Center took over management of the Nature Center from Chugach State Park that year, we discovered quickly that parking could be a nightmare. Staff and volunteers built an "overflow parking" area, but it was hard to reach without 4 wheel drive and difficult to maneuver. But it worked to alleviate the situation on some of our busiest days. By 2007, we were reaching out to the AK State Parks to help us find a way to add parking. Chugach State Park administrators put it on their list of needs and we all waited. We received grants to evaluate the situation and come up with ideas. Neighbors provided feedback. Money was scarce.