Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:12 PM on Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Visitors remind us why we live here

Last Friday while driving out to the Homer Spit to see the Pier One Theatre production of "Little Shop of Horrors," we passed a traffic jam that reminded us why we live here. At the bald eagle nest near the Lake Street stoplight, photographers had parked to shoot what could be the most popular eagles in town. Just down the road, people stopped by Beluga Slough to look at an obliging young mouse feeding on bright green sedges. Only in Alaska could you get a twofer like that.

Every time we pass that nest, we see someone photographing eagles. That always puts smiles on our faces. Sometimes we even stop to photograph the eagles or — just as interesting — the tourists photographing the eagles.

We highly recommend looking at Homer through visitors' eyes. What inspires our guests? What do they want to see? What joy can they get in the simplest things? Sometimes we grumble about tourist traffic and crowded stores and restaurants. Put those gripes aside, not just because we welcome visitors, but also because outside of our homes we're all tourists somewhere.

People pay thousands of dollars to come here, like a charming Scottish couple we met last week on a week-long tour of Homer. Most tourists have researched the opportunities thoroughly, gotten recommendations and planned their time well.

And they're in heaven when they get here.

Visitors see a land close to nature — heck, a land where wildlife lives and walks right through it. They see spectacular vistas, like the islands, mountains and glaciers across Kachemak Bay. They get warm welcomes, gracious hospitality and, we hope, incredible value for their dollars, Euros, yen and pounds.

How tourists see Homer can help us appreciate our town. As we're in high summer with the lupines blooming, this is the best time to enjoy our amazing home. Play like a tourist. Go camping. Fish in the Anchor River or on the bay. Take one of the excellent guided walks at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, the Carl Wynn Nature Center, the Pratt Museum and the Homer Harbor. Visit the Farmers' Market. Take a water taxi across the bay and hike in Kachemak Bay State Park. Visit Halibut Cove or Seldovia. Kayak. The opportunities abound. We'll report on some, like in our page 2 feature, "In Our Own Backyard."

Every weekend through August looks to be jam packed, with events coming up like the Homer Council on the Arts Street Faire this weekend, the KBBI Concert on the Lawn in a few weeks, the Homer Highland Games on Aug. 6 and ... well, just keep reading our calendar.

Homer is in the top 100 on a lot of people's bucket lists. And here we are, lucky residents of the best place on earth. Remind yourself why you live here and take time to enjoy this awesome land.

Public's commitment to gas line to be tested

In Kachemak City, Mayor Phil Morris isn't letting Gov. Sean Parnell's veto of the Homer Gas Line stop him from moving ahead with the dream of natural gas. Morris has introduced an ordinance to the Kachemak City Council that, if passed, would put on the Oct. 4 city election ballot the question of raising the real property tax 1 mill ($100 per $100,000 of assessed value). Yes, raise taxes. Morris wants to set in place a way to finance bonds to get a natural gas distribution system in Kachemak City if a gas line ever goes that way. The mill rate wouldn't happen if the gas didn't start flowing.

We commend that kind of forward thinking and wish we had more of it in Juneau and Washington, D.C. If the voters approve the conditional tax increase, it lets Parnell and the Legislature know Kachemak City is serious about paying its share of a natural gas distribution system. In awarding grants to cities, the governor and legislators often ask, "What's the local contribution?" There's your contribution — a vote of the people to tax themselves. Can you imagine if all of the city of Homer did the same thing? We wish Morris, the Kachemak City Council and the residents luck on making the tax increase happen. Bold leadership like that is how we're going to solve a lot of problems in Alaska and America.