Those who enjoy the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have limited time left to complete an outdoors activities challenge created by refuge staff to celebrate the refuge’s 75th anniversary.
To commemorate the anniversary, refuge staff last winter came up with 75 outdoor activities people can do to celebrate the refuge, said Visitor Services Manager Matt Conner. They range from the more difficult, like catching a salmon on the Kenai River and taking a flightseeing tour of the Harding Icefield, to the simple and enjoyable, like hiking a refuge trail or counting “how many mosquitoes land on you in five minutes.”
“I said, you know, instead of doing an event where we attempt to tell the public why the refuge is special, let’s give them some lists of activities and they can tell us what is special about the refuge and what they experienced,” Conner said.
The opportunity to rack up activities began in winter, but there are also five opportunities for refuge users to come up with their own activities and submit them. Some challenges require sending in a picture so the refuge staff can “live vicariously,” Conner said.
They are a combination of staff favorites and are designed to ease families into the outdoors, Conner said.
“It seemed like a daunting task, and then about 30 minutes later we had 80 (activities),” he said.
The first 100 people who complete 25 of the activities will win a prize Christmas tree ornament made from recycled glass that has the date the refuge was formed. Those who turn in more activities can win a first-, second- or third-place prize. The prize for the most number of activities completed is a replica of the “Majesty of the Kenai” moose statue that sits outside the visitor center.
The checklist for the activities is available on the refuge’s website and can be picked up at its visitor center in Soldotna. Post facto activities count, Conner said, and can be recorded if people completed them earlier in the year before they started the challenge. Conner said staff hopes the choices encourage people who might not know where to start to get out and try new things.
“Maybe they grew up and their parents took them to a certain type of activity but they never did, say, staying in a cabin,” Conner said. “So the idea was to kind of let them know that, you know, maybe you know about all these experiences and opportunities, and maybe it’s … a nice little gentle nudge to try, maybe it’s fishing for the first time or camping for the first time.”
Area residents can also enjoy two main events leading up to the refuge’s anniversary. The first is a photography show Oct. 8 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Attendees can view professional art taken of some of the more remote places in the refuge before watching a play titled “A Standard of Change.” The event is free to the public and will be catered, Conner said.
Then there’s the anniversary party itself on Dec. 16, sponsored by the Friends of Alaska National Refuges and the Association of Retired Fish and Wildlife Service Employees. The party will include a cake cutting and is when prizes will be given out to those who participated in the activities challenge. This will be held at the refuge visitor center.
In the meantime, families can hit the trails and lakes in these last few months and turn in their activities from Nov. 28 through Dec. 10.
“It’s not catered to one user group, which is what is also special about refuges, you know, they cater to many user groups, and that’s what it reflects,” Conner said.