The Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club was once a small group of friends that enjoyed a shared interest in outdoor activities.
Today, the group has grown to have nearly 200 members. While the size of the club has increased, a shared love for the outdoors has remained constant.
Founded in 1992, the club allows members to gather at year round events in order to participate in an array of activities, and, at the same time, meet new people who share common interests.
While the club organizes a variety of events, common meet-ups are ski, hiking and camping trips. The events take place all over the Kenai Peninsula and activities range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. While the club’s name suggests that every event is held outdoors, that is not the case.
“We have the shoulder seasons, where we get into less active stuff,” said Steve Ford, the group’s co-founder. “There have been movie nights. We’ll do pool and dart night — stuff like that, so we certainly move indoors a lot.”
Ford said that in the club’s early days, organizing the events was more difficult, because the events calendar had to be handwritten and mailed to each member. Ford said that new technology has made organizing events easier.
In August 2009, the club starting using the website www.meetup.com to help plan and organize events more efficiently. Ford said the website has been extremely successful in attracting new members and keeping everyone up to date with events.
Any member can post an event on the website and it’s even possible for several events to be scheduled on the same day. Ford said that seeing the group grow has been interesting.
“(The club) is moving on its own,” Ford sad. “It’s like an amoeba.”
According to the club’s Meetup page, over 1,300 events have been held since the website began.
While the Internet has helped the club grow, many members continue to meet in person to plan events. On the third Wednesday of each month, some group members meet at the Albatross Restaurant and Lounge on Kalifornsky Beach Road to discuss new ideas and future get-togethers. These events are then published on the Meetup website where members can RSVP for events.
Mike Crawford, a Tsalteshi Trails Association board member, said he moved to Alaska three years ago and joined the club after hearing about it from coworkers.
Crawford said he liked the club not only because it offered the opportunity to meet new people, but also because it allowed people to feel safe and comfortable while enjoying the Alaskan outdoors.
“You’re not going to get lost, people know what they’re doing if something does happen,” Crawford said. “It’s a really good failsafe.”
Crawford said he wanted to help improve the club.
“One of the big complaints that members had was that there was no way to pay for club membership (online),” Crawford said. “We wanted to make it easier for so many of the young members who are used to paying that way and don’t own a checkbook. So, I helped them put in their online registration.”
The website caused an immediate boost in participation and paying members, Crawford said.
Crawford said that the website has been extremely useful, but there has been one problem.
“A lot of people are terrible at RSVPing. I think it’s an Alaskan thing,” Crawford said.
The club has a yearly membership fee of $15 per person or $20 for family. The money not only goes toward funding events, but to helping the community as well.
“In the past (the club) donated $500 annually (toward upkeep of the Tsalteshi Trails), which was so appreciated by Tsalteshi,” Crawford said. “It helps trail maintenance and keeps the trails in good shape. It all goes to a good cause and it’s really neat to see appreciation by the Outdoor Club, because they use the trails a lot. So many meet-ups happen on the trails, so it’s a really good two-way relationship.”
Rusty Swan, who has been the club’s president for three years, said that there is no requirement for attending events and members can come to as many events as they wish.
“I may go to only three or four (events) a month and sometimes I’ll go to three or four a weekend, it just depends on what’s going on,” Swan said.
Swan said he thinks having a large, diverse group is a good thing.
“We have quite a few different characters, but I guess the one commonality is that we love Alaska and we love to play outside.” Swan said. “That’s kind of our motto — get out and play.”
For more information about the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club, go to: