Fifty years ago, in 1969, the Mountaineering Club of Alaska printed monthly write-ups by expedition leaders in its newsletter, The Scree. For the May outing, the notice pointed to a critical state issue: “A celebratory hike for members and friends for winning a citizens’ lawsuit against an announced sale of timber-cutting and sales in ‘Indian Valley’ in the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.” After the hike by the well-attended group, which included about 60 people, a smaller group stayed to discuss how to make a permanent difference, not merely appreciate one win. The idea grew: “Make it a state park!” Afterward they formed an ad hoc group — in a few months, they gathered a much larger group. In August 1969, their work created the Chugach State Park Ad Hoc Group. That group knew that with the coming legislative session in January 1970, they would have less than five months to be ready. They partnered with every group plus those not already brought in to creating a state park!
In the 50-plus years of living in Alaska since, those of us 70 years and older can say much change has occurred in our largest state in the union. The length of time for statehood documentation was due to the land survey for the entire state, the first time it had been done. The group that formed worked with Alaskans across the state. A wonderful percentage of legislators worked with them and passed legislation for three state parks. All three parks were passed, and in August 1970, then-Gov. Keith Miller signed the Chugach State Park bill in Anchorage.
Alaska’s population has exploded since then (the 1960 census counted 200,000 people, far fewer than today’s 737,000-plus). Alaska’s rankings in comparison with other states in all manner of socioeconomic indicators are in trouble. Our leaders must follow the statistics and visible outcomes of what the next 50 years will have to experience. Each year counts, and the citizen effort and Alaska resources discussed have brought benefit to all in our state. Each day’s efforts count.
Next year will be a grand 50-year Golden Anniversary for the first three state parks. We will celebrate so many people who gave time, effort and love. Many of those people were never paid for their efforts, not given a thank-you! Most important is the outstanding notice of “lessons learned.”
— Sharon M. Cissna
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