Reality tv star seeks permit to build retreat at Fox River

For nearly his entire life, Atz Kilcher has been going up into the Fox River flats to enjoy the wilderness. Soon, he may be able to bring more people with him.

The homesteader near Homer and star of the Discovery channel reality show “Alaska: The Last Frontier” applied to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources for permission to construct several permanent buildings near Sheep Creek, to the northeast of the Old Believer Russian Orthodox village Kachemak Selo. The structures would be there year round but only used for about three months a year.

The plans are still very much up in the air right now, Kilcher said. His vision is to be able to bring people up to the area to enjoy the wilderness and be inspired to make art, he said. He is connected to several nonproft organizations in Homer that take young people out for activities in the wilderness around Kachemak Bay, and working with them is one possibility for the camp, he said.

“The dream as it’s unfolding, it could involve kids, youths, parents and their kids — I see it more as a writing, art retreat,” Kilcher said. “I could envision letting existing organizations use my facility, turning kids onto the wilderness.”

Between two and 10 camp participants would be there from two to seven days, working on a variety of art forms that could include singing, songwriting, poetry, painting or film, Kilcher wrote in the application. The campground would include a two-story barn, a cabin, a bunkhouse, a workshop and an outhouse.

The camp would also keep one or two horses, chickens, a cow and rabbits, Kilcher wrote. The site, which is away from any vehicle-accessible road, is only accessible by four-wheeler, snow machine, horseback or foot. Kilcher wrote that campers would drive a four-wheeler to the Fox River and cross the river in a rowboat.

The point is not just to bring campers out to live in the wilderness, but to allow them to be inspired by the nature around them to make art, he said.

The Fox River is a place close to his heart, he said. His father, Yule Kilcher, owned land in the area and helped to found the Fox River Cattlemen’s Association, which has had a grazing lease in the area since 1955, he said. Much of his art — baskets, wood carvings and other works of art — incorporates reeds, bones and stones from the head of Kachemak Bay and around the river area.

“The Fox River valley for me has been for me a fantasyland, a retreat,” Kilcher said. “I call it my sanctuary. The theme of healing, the theme of getting in touch with your higher self, of being creative, of being at your best, those kind of things are what I experienced when I was up there. It still has that magic for me.”

Although Homer has grown significantly in recent years, the Fox River valley has remained relatively undeveloped, in part because of its remoteness.

Most people who travel into it by four-wheeler stop at the Fox River, but there is much more to it that is accessible by boat or horseback, Kilcher said.

Although the community has the right to weigh in on his application, Kilcher said the valley is so remote that most people probably will not know he is out there. In total for the summer, the camp would host about 50 people, according to the application, and with the size of the valley, it’s not likely to make a lot of noise or pollution. The only chemical planned for the site is gas for a generator and the four-wheeler; all other waste will be carried away from the camp and buried or carried out.

Kilcher is a well-known figure from his involvement in the community, music and art besides the Discovery reality show. However, the TV show has given him a broader audience where the crews are filming in the valley and around his homestead, he said. They do capture a select part of the reality of the family’s life but, like any TV show, incorporate drama and portray them as much more remote and subsistence-based than they are, he said.

“With this Discovery chapter in my life, they do some filming of me up there, I’ve put it all in perspective now and I’ve just got to go ‘Wow, I’ve been up there most of my life. Now I’m sharing it with a lot of people via television,’” Kilcher said.

“But when I think about what gives me pleasure, what gives people pleasure, whatever we do to feel a thrill, to feel connected, to feel alive, (the Fox River valley) is where it’s always been at for me.”

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