The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Seward Resort is always ready

 


Scott Bartlett says that the action never stops at the Army’s Seward Resort. Although locals sometimes forget about the facility, Bartlett says traffic from conferences and visiting single soldiers and families is a constant. The recreational outpost also opens to the public for community functions like the recent Seward Fire Department annual awards ceremony and Easter activities. However, as far as accommodations and its core mission go, it exclusively caters to active members of military and a few associated agencies.

In a early spring surprise, a group of 19 from the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy spent a couple of overnights at the resort while on a 3-day field survey of the Seward area. Bartlett said that Rick Brown of Adventure Sixty North was originally contacted by the group, who were completely unaware of the resort’s existence. Between Brown and Bartlett, the military group ended up with a 3-day tour of the area, including a comprehensive introduction to the Alaska SeaLife Center including presentation from the technical staff along with a complete Resurrection Bay tour.

According to Bartlett, it’s that kind of community partnership that really helps the Seward Resort reach its potential in serving its users while contributing to the local economy. He points out that one simple contact turned a day trip into a 3-day expedition that furthered the goals of the visiting group and showed Seward’s best face. Bartlett also likes the fact that any visitors outside of those typically reached by the resort’s promotional activities help spread the word about both his facility and Seward.

In addition to frequent conferences, which can mean 60 or more visitors to the area, 26 soldiers are weekly guests at the resort over the summer. That upcoming surge in summer use really gets a boost from the various events in the Seward area including the Halibut and Silver Salmon derbies. Local operators Major Marine Tours and Kenai Fjords Tours donate tickets every year which translated into a combined $243,000 in tickets sales for the resort this spring. According to Bartlett, that number is up 38 percent from last year.

Early engagement of local charter operators is set for May 22 when the annual Armed Services Combat Fishing Tournament takes place. Bartlett says that some of the unique appeal of the event has worn off since the surge of support for the military years back around 2006 when the tournament was first put together. Bartlett says that people sometimes forget that the military is still out there. Opening the tournament up beyond combat veterans has also dampened enthusiasm, with some charter operators being retired veterans themselves.

However, Bartlett points out that the Seward deep-sea charter fleet continues to generously support the tournament by donating their services. That annual tournament has historically brought around 200 service members to Seward, some for the first time. He’s hoping for the best this year because the number of boats participating is down and the Anchorage fundraiser didn’t have a stellar turnout. With the state’s large numbers of active and retired military, it’s kind of perplexing to Bartlett.

The major regret that Bartlett has is that disabled veterans don’t have access according to the rules. Resort-use restrictions are mandated by the U.S. Congress. However, he said that keeping accommodations restricted to active duty keeps the facility from being overrun. Barlett laughs as he points out that it also keeps him in the good graces of the rest of the hospitality industry in the community. Between the various branches of the military, the Alaska Guard and NOAA, he’s looking at a full house, even though early fishing bookings are a little slow.

“Rooms are about the same, fishing’s down. A lot of people wait, especially the in-state folks. They wait to see what the weather’s gonna be. But this’ll be the first time in 17 years I’m not here to open the camp up on Memorial Day weekend,” he said.

Bartlett just inherited a related resort camp over in Valdez, formerly run by Fort Greely. He’s got a strategy to get on top of management issues at the Valdez facility with internal controls and trusted personnel lined up to turn it in a clockwork operation like the Seward Resort. The major challenge in that respect is getting enough qualified seasonal help, even in Seward. “Local people just won’t work here. We pay pretty well, a housekeeper gets over $12 an hour. I just don’t know why we can’t get reliable local people. It’s really a good place to work. I can get out-of-state workers, but I don’t have anywhere to put ‘em,” Bartlett opined.

 

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