23rd Kenai Peninsula Writers Contest: Grades K-12 nonfiction winners

After a seven-year hiatus, the Kenai Peninsula Writers Contest returns for its 23rd year. Coordinated by the Homer Council on the Arts, the contest was open to literary artists of all ages on the Kenai Peninsula. The judges were Kim Fine, De Patch, Lyn Mazlow, Melissa Cloud, Shellie Worsfold, Debi Poore, Mae Remme, Linda Martin, Ann Dixon, Justin Herrman, Nancy Lord, Mercedes Harness, Wendy Erd, Rich Chiappone and Tom Kizzia.

Winners received prizes by sponsors Tom Bodett & Co., Homer Bookstore, River City Books and the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. Winners represent communities throughout the borough, including Anchor Point, Homer, Ninilchik, Nikiski, Kasilof, Kenai, Soldotna and Tyonek.

The winning stories, including second- and third-place entries, are online at the Homer Council on the Arts website at www.homerart.org/wcwinners.

Grades 10-12, nonfiction winner, first place

“Life of Nina and the Late Ed Bailey”

by Alexis Schneider

This is a quote from Nina Faust: “Ed’s dream was to manage his own wildlife preserve when he retired, and we both wanted to do something in our retirement that involved our commitment to land stewardship,” Nina shared. “So we started buying adjoining lands at the end of Skyline Drive with the intention of building a preserve that would fulfill our goals of protecting wildlife corridors and habitat, watersheds, and sandhill crane nesting and staging areas,” Faust continued. “Inspiration Ridge Preserve’s 690 plus acres made our dreams a reality when the Preserve was handed over to the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in December 2019,” she concluded. They started in 1993 with the Alldredge Homestead; this was the first parcel, and so on after that.

What precisely is a nature preserve? It is an area where animals and plants are protected and there is not much infrastructure on the land. With that being known I worked at a preserve before it joined an agency. I kept up the property lines by doing trail work with an extremely cool team. This was during the Summer of 2019 and then fall came and my job tapered off slowly. The Preserve is popularly called IRP or Inspiration Ridge Preserve by Nina Faust and the late Ed Bailey.

My role began the previous summer when I worked for Nina Faust before The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies took over her property. I was hired by The Coastal Studies and Nina this past summer. I maintained the trails with other staff to provide access for the people to go on tours. The summer of 2020 has ended; hopefully, next summer The Center for Alaskan Coastal will offer a naturalist position to assume for IRP.

This is a significant event because I hope that people will recognize how important preserves are. Cutting up valuable trees and land removal is harmful to the pristine ecosystems. Saving land is exceptionally important to the habitat for the animals that live there. Also, eagerly opening the IRP to the public helps The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies to collect more funds for tours and other programs for the community of Homer. Many typical tourists currently come in the lovely summer. They genuinely want to properly know what Homer is about.

A Transfer of a Preserve to an Agency

The local event was promptly on Feb. 21, 2020, at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska. The reason for the event was to honor Ed and Nina because they collected land so that they could develop a preserve for wildlife to thrive. The ecological preserve is home to many sandhill cranes that come in the spring and then migrate in the fall. They like to group up at IRP to get set to leave. When hiking on the trails, you can see moose and maybe even a bear once in a while.

Grades 4-6 nonfiction winner, first place

“Swanson River Boat Trip”

by Apphia Bowser

One cool fall morning, Dad told Larue and Marie (me) that we where going to surprise the rest of the family (Mom, Dawn, and Lee) on their canoe trip up the Swanson River. They had been gone a day and night, and they were coming back today. The plan was that we would drive up to the Swanson River boat dock, unload our canoe, and paddle upstream to meet the others. Then we would escort them back to the truck. Larue and I were very excited because this would be our first canoe trip on a river.

Dad started to pack food while I got warm clothes on. Then I went and wrestled Larue into her rain gear. Dad packed sandwiches and dried apples, which is my favorite car lunch. When we loaded up in the truck, I was squashed in between Larue and a mound of fishing gear. After we drove about 17 miles, the heavens opened and started to dump rain. Dad turned on the windshield wipers, but they would not work! Dad decided to stop at an auto shop to try to fix the wipers.

When we got to the auto shop, Dad went inside to buy some parts while we waited outside in the truck. Dad was gone for nearly 30 minutes, and Larue began to whine. Finally Dad came back, but on his way out he met a friend of his and talked with him for a long time. At last he said goodbye to his friend and came towards us. He raised the hood of the truck and proceeded to try and fix the windshield wipers. After another 30 minutes, he gave up, and we continued to drive towards the Swanson River. The rest of the drive was very hot and uncomfortable.

We finally got to the boat dock at the Swanson River. Dad started unloading the canoe, but while he was getting it down, it nearly fell on him. Not a good start to the trip. The trail down to the landing was long, steep, and muddy. Dad told us to be very careful as the path was quite slippery. At last we reached the Swanson River landing. Dad put the boat in the water and we all piled in.

We started to paddle upriver. It was rocky and shallow. Often in places Dad would have to get out and pull the boat along from the shore. It was slow going, and we soon became very cold and tired. The boat kept bumping up against rocks and just barely slipping past. It was terribly slow. The rain came down in torrents, and we were soaked to the skin in a couple of minutes

When we rounded a bend, we saw a very welcome sight: Mom and Dawn coming down the bend.

At first they did not recognize us. As we got nearer to them and waved, they recognized us and were very surprised and happy to see us. We escorted them the rest of the way, talking about our trip most of the time. Larue told them it was very hard. I personally was rather annoyed at her saying this, as she had sat in the boat and whined most of the time while Dad and I worked. She had done some paddling though.

We finally got to the dock. We loaded up our boats and headed home. Dawn talked most of time about how bad and rainy the weather had been. Lee mostly asked about our trip. Dad told Mom about the wipers not working. I just sat in the back seat and thought about the trip. We at last reached home. Going to bed that night, I reflected on how the day had went. It had been a cold, hard trip, but I had fully enjoyed our paddle on the Swanson River.

Grades K-3 nonfiction winner, first place

“Giant Saguaro Cactus”

by Wylder Johnson

Giant Saguaro Cactus, which grow in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico, can tower up to 60 feet. Spiky, huge Saguaro branches are called arms. They have long, sharp spines on them. In the winter, when it rains, cacti bloom big, white, pollen-filled flowers. Birds build nests in the Saguaro branches because they’re like the trees of the desert. At night, bats feast on the nectar of the flowers. In the summer, visitors to the Saguaro National Park in Arizona camp next to the towering, giant cacti. The cacti grow slowly and can live for 150 years. Cacti are awesome, fascinating plants. The giant Saguaro Cactus is a symbol of the American West.

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