Pay it Forward

The idea behind “pay it forward” is an old one, but it’s more appropriate today than ever.

At the most basic level, it means if someone does something nice for you, don’t repay them, but instead “pay it forward” to others. Somebody pulled you out of the ditch? Do the same for the next person. That way, good will flows back into the community. It’s something Alaskans have been doing for years.

On the Lower Kenai Peninsula, the Homer Foundation has played a central role giving back to our community. With generous support from local people and businesses, private foundations and the City of Homer, the Homer Foundation has driven millions of dollars into our local nonprofit businesses and service providers since its inception in 1991. This impressive support has created jobs in our community, and enhanced the quality of life on the Lower Peninsula for countless Alaskans.

Two years ago, folks from our community approached the Homer Foundation with an idea: how about a pavilion on the Spit to celebrate our maritime traditions, and to give people a place to gather, to rest, to escape the weather and to stage gear? The idea sprang from the harbor-side pavilion in Seldovia, and it got an added boost when the demolition of the old harbormaster’s office created space for a new structure.

The idea quickly took hold, and the Homer Foundation came on as fiscal sponsor to help manage the project’s finances. Soon after, a core group of supporters formed the Boathouse Committee, and agreed to rely on private funding to support the project.

The Boat House Committee then set about soliciting ideas, and the concept of a new maritime structure on the Homer Spit captured the imagination of the architects and designers at the firm ECI in Anchorage, which had designed the Homer Library. ECI and one of its principals – Jason Swift – quickly fell in love with the project, and agreed to provide all their services free of charge, at no cost to the Boat House or our community.

From there, the Boat House Committee reached out to our local community, holding a series of public meetings and securing support from Homer’s Port &Harbor Commission, the Homer Parks and Recreation Committee and the Homer City Council. While opinions varied on the design and aesthetics of the Boat House, public support for the concept of the Boat House Pavilion ran strong.

That strong public support has translated into strong financial support. To date, the Boat House Committee has raised over $240,000 from over 250 local people and businesses to help build the Boat House. Construction started in Fall 2017, and today, it’s virtually complete, with a design inspired by the old halibut schooners that still ply local waters. Some basic landscaping is soon to come.

So, if you’re biking or walking on the Spit, take a break at the Boat House. If you want a place to picnic with a panoramic view of the harbor and the boats and people who drive our maritime culture and economy, stop in. Or if you just need a place to stage gear before your trip across the Bay, or if you need to get out of the weather, the Boat House is there for you.

In the months to come, we’ll see school kids meeting at the Boat House before heading across the bay on field trips. We’ll see education groups gathering there and families reuniting after a day on the bay. We’ll see individuals from all sectors of our communities sitting on the new benches and visitors from across the country and the world stopping in.

While the Boat House Committee can point to hundreds of people who helped make this project a reality, it’s safe to say the project would have remained dead in the water without the tireless support of Ken Castner. Ken was a driving force behind the creation of the Homer Foundation in 1991, and as a general contractor with Tonsina LLC, he volunteered his time and energy to oversee all aspects of Boat House construction.

Construction of the Boat House was truly a monumental task and we cannot thank Ken and Jason enough for their selfless dedication to our community.

Today, as another summer season approaches, the Boat House Committee is set to unveil the newest addition to the Homer Spit. Please join your friends and neighbors on Saturday, May 12, at 1 p.m., atop Ramp 2 at the Homer Harbor for the Boat House grand opening and ribbon cutting. We’ll have live music by Burnt Down House, and the Homer Lions Club will be serving up free hotdogs.

And as a special tribute to the Homer Foundation’s long tradition of “paying it forward” on the Southern Kenai Peninsula, we’ll also be unveiling the “Giving Salmon” – a beautiful bronze “piggy bank” salmon, designed to celebrate our fishing traditions and to help collect support for worthy projects in our community.

There are many things that divide us in our nation, in our state and in our community today. The Boat House Pavilion is a wonderful example what we can do when we all work together with a common goal to improve the quality of life in Homer. This is what “paying it forward” means. We hope you’ll join us Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m.

Gart Curtis is a Boat House Committee member.

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