In this August 2016 photo, people walk along the main historic downtown street of Hope, Alaska. Hope, a small unincorporated town along the Turnagain Arm at the end of the 18-mile Hope Highway, is a popular tourist destination in the summer months for its hiking and boating opportunities and for its historical value. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)  In this August 2016 photo, people walk along the main historic downtown street of Hope. Hope, a small unincorporated town along the Turnagain Arm at the end of the 18-mile Hope Highway, is a popular tourist destination in the summer months for its hiking and boating opportunities and for its historical value. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

In this August 2016 photo, people walk along the main historic downtown street of Hope, Alaska. Hope, a small unincorporated town along the Turnagain Arm at the end of the 18-mile Hope Highway, is a popular tourist destination in the summer months for its hiking and boating opportunities and for its historical value. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file) In this August 2016 photo, people walk along the main historic downtown street of Hope. Hope, a small unincorporated town along the Turnagain Arm at the end of the 18-mile Hope Highway, is a popular tourist destination in the summer months for its hiking and boating opportunities and for its historical value. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Hope community works to manage services, infrastructure

The residents of the small village of Hope are trying to keep their community well-maintained and safe with what resources they have available.

Hope, an unincorporated community of about 180 year-round residents on the northeastern edge of the Kenai Peninsula, has long been a sleepy town in winter that booms with tourists over the summer. Visitors from Outside and within Alaska flock to the packed-dirt Main Street to enjoy the historic Sea View Café and the Resurrection Creek Flats as well as heading out to hike and bike the trails along Turnagain Arm. The Sea View hosts concerts every weekend throughout the summer that attract visitors, featuring some high-profile bands such as High Lonesome Sound.

But as an unincorporated community, Hope doesn’t have the tax base to provide law enforcement, infrastructure, fire or emergency services. Hope Emergency Services, a volunteer organization that provides fire and emergency medical services, struggles to keep volunteers and to maintain equipment. Even coordinating the service takes a lot of work — the formerly separate fire and emergency services recently merged to save costs, a project that took six months to finalize, said Scott Sherritt, president of the Hope Emergency Services Board.

Hope stands to benefit from the recent formation of the East Peninsula Highway Service Area, which the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly authorized at its May 16 meeting. Though the service area doesn’t have a budget, infrastructure or a plan yet, it could provide a more consistent structure for emergency medical response to accidents along the approximately 118 miles of highway on the eastern peninsula and relief for the small volunteer departments that have been handling it until now. Sherritt said Hope’s volunteer service has long struggled to maintain personnel, in part due to the town’s limited population.

“This might help in the long run with training, also getting more people involved, also getting more vehicles and things like that,” he said. “Right now, we basically cover from Hope and Sunrise out to the Y. Years ago, we used to go out on the highway, but we didn’t have transport, and we used to have to wait for Girdwood and Cooper Landing. That’s a problem because it takes them out of their area.”

Sherritt said he’s been involved with the emergency services since the widespread spruce bark beetle infestation of the 1990s, when the massive number of dead trees on the eastern Kenai Peninsula hiked up the fire danger dramatically. The small department doesn’t do structural fires — strictly wild and urban interface fires, essentially preventing wildfires from verging into town. Like the emergency medical services organization, the fire department has struggled to maintain volunteers over the years, he said.

Added to that is the large increase in tourism Hope has seen in the last decade or so. The town wants to stay welcoming to tourists, but residents have been concerned about people camping on the Resurrection Creek flats at the end of the town’s historic Main Street with campfires. Most of the danger is in the early part of the season before green-up starts, which typically occurs in early June, but people have been concerned, Sherritt said.

“And you get horrendous winds out there (on the flats),” he said. “And we’re at the confluence of the Turnagain Arm, and that’s one of the reasons that so many military planes practice here … that it’s such a weird wind area. It’s kind of an issue with the community. You have two sides of the story. Hope likes to be, has alwys been a very welcoming community.”

The flats are a major bird area as well, with migrating sandhill cranes, among other birds. People should be able to go out and enjoy the flats but be careful not to disturb the birds, Sherritt said.

Hope residents purchased land for a public restroom at the end of Main Street for the visitors and pay the costs for it through Hope, Inc., the nonprofit that serves as the legal entity for the community. Hope, Inc. also manages the community’s cemetery, the historic Hope Social Hall and has managed the Hope Library under lease from the Kenai Peninsula Borough since the 1980s. The assembly approved an ordinance to transfer ownership of the library building, known as the Old Hope School, to Hope, Inc. for $1 at its May 2 meeting.

Hope, Inc. already managed the library’s maintenance for the borough, putting about $200,000 over the years through grants and donations, said Hope, Inc. President Jim Skogstad.

“The borough hasn’t spent a dime on it since we took it over, so it just made sense for us to put it in our name so we didn’t have to deal with any of the lease issues with the borough,” he said. “There’s restrictive clauses in there. … There’s a guarantee that it will remain as a public facility and the assembly agreed.”

Hope, Inc. has worked on some of the issues with the tourist influx in Hope, including working with private landowners on the flats to help control the camping and fires there and restricting cars from driving out on the flats, Skogstad said. However, there are limits to what Hope can do as an unincorporated area, including law enforcement.

For serious issues, the Alaska State Troopers can respond there, but for enforcing issues such as parking, the community has no authority to police without forming a law enforcement service area through the borough or incorporating to provide police service.

Skogstad the residents are still trying to figure out mechanisms to solve some of the challenges.

“We’re just trying to keep the town, not let it turn into the party town of the Turnagain Arm,” Skogstad said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Supreme Court rules against forward funding for education, confirms limit on legislative power

Setting multi-year budgets in Alaska requires cash on hand, justices said

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
What to watch: Cheney in trouble; Palin eyes comeback

Sarah Palin jumped on a vacancy in the state’s congressional delegation as a potential springboard back into elected office

Assembly members participate during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to revisit gravel pit legislation

A proposed ordinance would overhaul borough code addressing material site permits

Campaign signs decorate the outside of Paradisos Restaurant on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Election 2022: Where, how, when to vote

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday

As measured by the CDC, dispensing rate reflects the number of prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons per year. While the United States’ dispensing rate peaked at 81.3 in 2012, the Kenai Peninsula’s rate was 100 or higher every year between 2001 and 2015. Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara.
Borough creates grant program to distribute opioid settlement funds

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will offer hundreds of thousands of dollars in… Continue reading

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)
Just 2 Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

Alaska’s lieutenant governor will oversee the 2024 presidential election

Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Clayton Holland stand near the entrance to the district’s Soldotna offices on Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Academics, staff recruitment among district priorities for upcoming school year

The superintendent is ready to see KPBSD return to the district’s pre-COVID-19 academic performance

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Personal use harvest reports due Monday

Northern Kenai fishing report

Evelyn Cooley competes in the barrel race at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Aug. 12, 2022, in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Music, magic, daredevils and pigs

Kenai Peninsula Fair brings an assortment of activities to Ninilchik

Most Read