Catching up on Girdwood. Issue IV

Thank your for taking the time to read our fourth issue of Girdwood Inc’s newsletter! Girdwood Inc’s mission is to be “Girdwood’s partner in funding and leadership,” and has done so since 2004. For example, in late May, Girdwood Inc. in collaboration with Little Bears Playhouse, submitted an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant request to help fund a new childcare facility. If you would like to voice your support for the Girdwood Workforce Childcare Project request, please email assembly members at                  

Community Champion:

Erin Lester

A new era in Girdwood healthcare is coming to our community. In late June, the old Girdwood Health Clinic building consisting of the 1960s Girdwood post office and mobile trailers were demolished. Just a few days prior, clinic workers made the move to the new facility. The demoed materials are gone, and the second phase of the new clinic building is underway. Once completed, the facility will have over 7000 SF including 6 exam/treatment rooms, behavioral health space, meeting space, clinician workspace, a lab, a contagion-confined exam room and an x-ray room. The new building provides a prominent feature in Town Square and a permanent space for decades to come. Having a skilled staff and excellent facility, the Girdwood Health Clinic offers far more to family medicine than just emergency drop-in service, including a sliding fee discount program for patients with financial hardship.  The clinic is currently looking to hire medical assistants.  Those interested in future employment should check the website regularly for details and updates. (

Leading the charge at Girdwood Health Clinic as the Chief Medical Officer is Dr. Erin Lester, a full time Girdwood resident. Erin is married to Paul Forward, a fellow doctor and lead guide at Chugach Powder Guides. They have lived in Girdwood off-and-on for the last 9 years and became full time residents in 2017.  Together they have a young toddler and are so happy to be raising him in Girdwood.

Erin has worked at Girdwood Health Clinic for the past 5 years. She has an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Washington State University and attended University of Washington School of Medicine through the Alaska WWAMI program. Erin then completed the Alaska Family Medicine Residency program.  Prior to her work at the Girdwood Health Clinic, she practiced in Kodiak and at Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. 

We at Girdwood Inc look forward to seeing the clinic flourish with expanded space and staffing.

Holtan Hills:

Significant movement has occurred on Holtan Hills since our last newsletter. Many individuals and business owners sent letters to Heritage Land Bank (HLB) and Girdwood Board of Supervisors (GBOS) requesting to include workforce housing as part of the project or suggested cancellation. The Girdwood Chamber of Commerce’s draft resolution passed at the June 13th Land Use Committee meeting 42 to 1. This resolution required that the current plan be amended to include workforce housing or should be terminated. The following week at GBOS, it was suggested that the resolution be postponed to re-word language in the offered resolution.

On June 14th, a joint Land Use Committee (LUC) and GBOS Town Hall was held, which focused entirely on Holtan Hills. This meeting was very well attended, with roughly 70 members in the community room and another 75+ online. The pre-publishing of the development agreement on the Girdwood Board of Supervisors website May 24th resulted in detailed questions from the public and many comments that called for workforce and affordability to be part of the development of Holtan Hills.

During the Town Hall, Connie Yoshimura discussed “more affordable condo units” to be included. The proposed units are three 8-plex buildings and would be part of Phase I. A member of the public asked what the price point would be for the 2-bedroom 900-1000 SF units and Yoshimura suggested $500,000 as the entry level price. When pressed on the price of the 6000-7000 square foot smallest lots, a price tag of $140,000-150,000 was given. There are 10 of these sized lots in Phase I. The developer and HLB suggested they work with 5 Girdwood residents on a working group. GBOS produced a letter which was sent to HLB and the administration, listing themes of various concerns raised at the GBOS/LUC Town Hall.

If workforce housing is included in the Holtan Hills project, at least a percentage of the land should require that properties are purchased with short term rental restrictions in the deed, so those who do choose to rent out their unit will do so on an extended basis.  This is the only way housing sales can benefit most of Girdwood’s needed workforce.  There is also a demand for apartments.  Up to this point, the Holtan Hills project does not address either of these issues.

On June 23rd, HLB held their first meeting since March. Many Girdwood residents registered to speak during the public comment period. HLB Commissioners heard various concerns, demands and expectations. Ron Tenny, HLB Girdwood Representative, again expressed frustration that he was learning details of the development at the same time as the general public, including reviewing the development agreement. Brooks Chandler stated that “disposals are done by elected officials, not HLB staff.” HLB staff indicated they are planning for an August disposal and October sale. HLB Commissioner Brett Wilbanks, a Girdwood resident, requested an HLB work session be held on Holtan Hills.

On July 5th, GBOS formally created the Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Board. It was expanded to 7 members. The nominated members include: Dave Hamre, Nico Reijns, Emma Kramer, Erin Eker, Sam Daniel, Brooke Lavendar and Nathen Ellis. They have held two meetings thus far, with the next meeting scheduled for August 2, 2022 at 4:00 PM in the community room. Written comments will be directed to this committee by emailing

On July 18th, Girdwood Board of Supervisors passed the Chamber’s rewritten Resolution in Support for Amendment of the Development Agreement between Heritage Land Bank and CY Investments to Address Girdwood Community Housing Needs. The primary difference between the community-approved resolution, and the GBOS resolution, was the removal of the call for canceling the Development Agreement, should changes not be made.

Private residents asked Girdwood Inc to provide a summary and timeline of events regarding the RFP and the current Holtan Hills project. As a result of that request, a summary is posted on our website. Additionally, concerned citizens organized signs to raise awareness regarding the Holtan Hills project. Those organizing the sign effort ask that you email, if interested in placing a sign on your property. If you are interested in donating toward the cost of the signs go to:

An Assembly Member Listening Session sponsored by Girdwood Inc and Girdwood Chamber of Commerce was held on July 19th in the community room. The hybrid meeting had roughly 150 participants. Randy Sulte attended in person and Suzanne LaFrance had her aide listening in, as she didn’t have the cell service she expected to attend remotely. Speakers included a welcome by Dale Goodwin of Girdwood Inc, Lynne’ Doran of Girdwood Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Trautner of Girdwood Health Clinic, Camille Jones of Little Bears Playhouse, Terry Sherwood of Girdwood Chapel/Food Pantry, Michelle Weston of Girdwood Fire Department, Emma Kramer and Brooke Lavendar of Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee. Many questions generated by members of the public will be forwarded to Heritage Land Bank, Assembly Members, Holtan Hills Advisory Committee and other relevant administration leaders.

The next Heritage Land Bank Advisory Commission Meeting will be held Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 11:30 a.m. at the Permit & Development Center (conference room 170 – 4700 Elmore Road, Anchorage, Alaska) or via Microsoft Teams and telephonic hearing (907) 519-0237 Conference ID 870 029 831#. An update from HLB and Connie Yoshimura is on the agenda.

Winner Creek Bridge Update:

Girdwood Inc. advocates important highway, infrastructure, recreation and other projects.  We are pleased to announce the Alaska legislature this session funded $1.2 million for replacement of the Winner Creek hand tram with a state-of-the-art suspension bridge.  The replacement bridge, a Girdwood Inc priority, is part of the broader “Alaska Long Trail Project.”  Girdwood Valley Service Area is expected to receive funds for construction and work to be done in 2023.  We thank the legislature for this funding, with special Girdwood kudos to Representative James Kaufman, Senator von Imhof and Friends of Girdwood Trails, a Girdwood Inc sponsored organization. After completion, the Forest Service will service and maintain stewardship of the bridge.

Seward Highway Safety Projects:

Department of Transportation engineers recently met with Girdwood Inc to discuss improving the intersection at Alyeska and Seward Highway.  As one example, the left turn by the gas station is problematic. With Seward Highway traffic expected to increase 5-7% each year for the next 5 years, Girdwood Inc believes we should support forward-thinking changes that will improve safety before the issues become worse.  It takes years to make changes to transportation corridors. Still in a planning stage, we appreciate DOT’s outreach. They held meetings with Old Girdwood residents and are hosting a public meeting on Wednesday July 27th at 6:00 – 7:30 PM in the Girdwood community room.

Other priorities include improvements to the Seward Highway between Bird and Potter Marsh.  The Governor’s proposed funding for these improvements has been approved by the legislature.  This project is envisioned to include a separated bike lane all the way from Bird to Potter.  When done, we will have a bike path all the way to Anchorage.  Girdwood Inc advocates advancing the project ASAP since highway users are already adjusting to disruptions caused by important rock fall improvements. 

Community Spotlight:

Girdwood Community Land Trust:

One of Girdwood Community Land Trust’s (GCLT) main goals is to increase opportunities for Girdwood’s workforce with attainable housing options, which include the chance for ownership. Other resort communities have similar programs and have helped to mitigate some pressure from high market demand in these areas. There are over 200 CLTs in the nation and are increasing in popularity as a mechanism to solve housing and land-use issues. We at Girdwood Inc are excited about the opportunity to have our own Community Land Trust here at home and a passionate board involved in these efforts. Last month, GCLT obtained their own 501(c)3 status, after being a Girdwood Inc sponsored organization since late 2020. This is another example of how Girdwood Inc fosters up-and-coming endeavors to grow and flourish.

Community Land Trusts (CLT) have roots in the civil rights movement and have a unique structure with a “tripartite” board. It is created by 1/3 tenants, 1/3 community members (Girdwood area) and 1/3 elected officials, non-profit leaders or subject area experts.

Girdwood Community Land Trust has spearheaded several resolutions for additional recycling options and zoning (Jan/Feb 2021), Girdwood Community Garden location and zoning on public land (June/July 2021), and obtained a Resolution of Support for Grants and Funding (Nov. 2021) from LUC & GBOS. Girdwood CLT’s 9-member board helped to kick-start last year’s farmers market and are the primary vendor organizer for this year’s Girdwood Farmers Market, which occurs every other Sunday in Town Square. The markets encourage positive economic development for small businesses to sell their goods, encourage access to healthy organic foods and a stage for musicians to share their talents. (Upcoming Dates: July 24, August 7, August 24)

Girdwood Community Land Trust board members realize that they will not be able to solve Girdwood’s housing issues by themselves but feels strongly that local-land management is a key part of the solution. Learn more and become a member at to support these efforts.

Thank you for attending our Summer Solstice Dance Party Fundraiser!

Girdwood Assembly Member Listening Session

We are inviting you to a Girdwood Assembly Member Listening Session scheduled for Tuesday July 19that 7:00 PM in the community room. This event is hosted by Girdwood, Inc. and Girdwood Chamber of Commerce. Please join us for this important discussion with Randy Sulte and Suzanne LaFrance.

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting Or join by entering a meeting ID

Meeting ID:216 029 214 276

Or call in (audio only)

+1 907-519-0237,,478175330#  United States, Anchorage

Phone Conference ID:478 175 330#

A Summary of Holtan Hills:

December 2022 Update:

The land sale/transfer (disposal) of parcels containing “Holtan Hills,” a 60-acre development of CY Investments located in Girdwood, is scheduled for vote at the Anchorage Assembly on December 6, 2022. The regular assembly meeting will begin at 5:00 PM. The public hearing portion is scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM. As of now, the disposal is the 2nd hearing item on the agenda. We encourage all those in the community with an opinion on the matter to come testify in front of Anchorage Assembly decision makers.

Girdwood Inc believes this disposal is relevant, as it represents a large portion of developable lands in Girdwood. As of this time, all lots are set to be market-rate, with no community housing or lots set aside for workforce housing, which we believe is a top priority for our community.

What does GBOS say?

The GBOS subcommittee, Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee (HHHAC) on October 24th sent a letter to Girdwood Board of Supervisors stating “In conclusion the HHHAC does not support the Holtan Hills Development in its current form.” After hearing from HHHAC, Girdwood Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution of Support for Revision or Revocation of the Development Agreement between Heritage Land Bank (HLB) and CY Investments to address Girdwood community housing needs.”  The resolution ended with “THEREFORE, GBOS cannot support the disposal of land under the Holtan Hills Development Agreement, to which the Girdwood community has consistently voiced their objection; ALSO, the GBOS and the Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee see tremendous value in developing the Holtan Hills lands in a way that benefits the Girdwood community as well as the MOA and requests that the HLB and MOA engage in open dialog to address Girdwood’s concerns and needs.”

Many Girdwood residents testified in opposition to the project at the September Heritage Land Bank Advisory Committee (HLBAC) Public Hearing. On October 27th, despite non-support of the Girdwood community, HLBAC voted in favor of the disposal 5-1, with several suggested amendments to the Development Agreement. The vote was done by private ballot. After an ombudsman complaint was filed for violation of Open Meetings Act, the HLBAC was required to re-vote in November. This time, the item was passed, again with amendments proposed incorporated into the Anchorage Assembly Ordinance with 3 in favor, 1 no, 1 abstention and 2 absent.

Girdwood Board of Supervisors voted to send a formal letter of objection regarding the development agreement on November 21, 2022.

Girdwood Inc agrees with Girdwood Board of Supervisors, which has repeatedly stated identified community concerns regarding the RFP/Holtan Hills Project including process, infrastructure & impact study, indirect link to housing and housing affordability.

To learn more about this project, please visit and read Newsletters Issue I-V.  If you have any questions, please email Also, please keep your eye on Girdwood Inc. Facebook page in the event of changes to the Assembly Meeting Agenda, etc.

Assembly Members held their first worksession on 11-4-2022. View the recording here.

Assembly Members held their second worksession 12-2-2022. View the recording here. The current S version, which is the document going to vote on December 6th is available for your review at the Assembly Member Worksession Page or available here.

HLBAC Recordings and Amendments:

Girdwood community members testified at the Heritage Land Bank Advisory Committee (HLBAC) on September 22, 2022. View the recording here.

HLBAC held a special meeting on October 13, 2022. View the recording here.

HLBAC needed to re-vote on the disposal at their November 17, 2022 meeting, as the first one did not account for commissioners individual votes. Recording (Note from HLB website: Res 2022-09 Passed, with a 3-1 vote, however it was misstated in the recording that it did not pass)​ HLB added the following amendments, which they only recommended disposal if these amendments were included:

1. All developers must submit applications for land use entitlements to the Girdwood Board of Supervisors (GBOS) for review prior to seeking official action by the designated decisionmaking body.

2. CY Investments LLC will restrict the use of any property in Holtan Hills, Phase I, to not
include short-term rentals less than 30 days in duration, with a sunset provision eliminating
this restriction when local ordinance is adopted otherwise regulating short term rentals.

3. Construction access through Hightower Road is prohibited.

4. CY Investments LLC will restrict twenty-five percent (25%) of the developed multi-family
units to be identified and set apart for rental development and not sold individually.

5. The Developer continues to engage with the Girdwood Holtan Hills Housing Advisory
Committee as the project progresses. You can read the full resolution here.

Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee Communications:

Holtan Hills  Housing Advisory Committee Letter RE: Status report 10.24.22
MOA Trombley response to HHHAC request 10.22​
HHHAC Letter RE Holtan Hills Project 9.22

Girdwood Board of Supervisors Communications Regarding Holtan Hills:

GBOS Letter to MOA RE Holtan Hills 6.22.22​

2022-14 Holtan Hills​ – Resolution in Support of Amendment of the Development Agreement between Heritage Land Bank and CY Investments to Address Girdwood Community Housing Needs 7.22.2022

2022-23 Amendment or revocation of Holtan Hills Development Agreement – 10.24.2022

Letter of Objecting: 2022-23 Amendment or revocation of Holtan Hills Development Agreement 11.28.2022

Summary previously published (June 2022):

Many people say, “I don’t know enough about what is going on.” We hope this summary will catch you up to speed on the series of events that have transpired and respective dates. Read the full resolution here.

In April 2021, without consulting the Girdwood community, Heritage Land Bank released an RFP to develop 150 acres. The RFP did not appear on their annual work plan, which was adopted by assembly only 43 days prior to RFP release.

Initially, the RFP had a response time of about 38 days. Due to complaints from members of the public to assembly members regarding the rushed nature, the timeline was pushed back another 23 days. This is a total of 61 days from the RFP being published, to the time responses were due. Given the magnitude of project, and its affect and impacts on the surrounding community, this RFP seemed to move forward without public consultation with the Girdwood community.

Two responses were submitted. The winning RFP response was determined with a “Selection Committee.” This committee was chosen by HLB staff. It consisted of 9 members. 7 of the 9 were/are municipal employees or contractors. The selection committee received the proposals via email on Tuesday, June 15. The memo released June 29 includes “All members were able to join a call on June 22, except Mr. Romerdahl who received a verbal summary of questions and discussion immediately following the call from HLB Land Management Officer Shelley Rowton. Each member then provided their final scoresheets before Noon on June 23.” This means no individual who is not a municipal employee and lives in Girdwood Valley Service Area participated on the call. One member on the call had been a long-time resident of Upper Crow Creek and also been employed by Pomeroy (a proposal submitter), which should have been declared a conflict of interest, but was apparently not.

“All members of the Selection Committee ranked Pomeroy Property Development, Ltd and partners Seth Anderson, P.E. and CY Investments, LLC as the superior proposal. Both respondents to the RFP have been notified of the results, and negotiation with the Pomeroy partnership group will begin at the conclusion of the appeal window.” (Appeals were required prior to the submissions, or by the other applicant within days.)

A factor that has come up repeatedly, is the question if the development entity receiving disposal of land is different than who was awarded as winner per the memo. To the public, it appeared Pomeroy, Seth Anderson and CY Investments were partners, but as the project is proposed today, Pomeroy and Anderson are not involved. It appears CY Investments is the only entity involved with Holtan Hills, which is fundamentally different than having a vested business and stakeholder in the community no longer involved (Pomeroy) in the (now publicly known to be) around 60 acre development.

Per Anchorage Muncipal Code “The disposal responsibility of the Heritage Land Bank is, at the direction of the mayor and assembly, to convey from municipal ownership Heritage Land Bank land or interests in land which is not needed for specific public facilities or purposes. Each disposal shall be in the municipal interest, and based at or above appraised fair market value or for other equivalent municipal values or objectives, under the procedures specified in section 25.40.025.” All of the above events had been done under an Acting Mayor, who was most likely unaware of the lack of HLB’s community engagement with Girdwood, scale and potential impacts.

Days after holding the selection committee, head of HLB and the Real Estate Department, Robin Ward, retires. A new director for Heritage Land Bank steps in 7/1/2021.

The Girdwood Community struggled to understand what was happening. The winning RFP had many redactions, and it was difficult to discern basic information about the project. These included more than personal finances of the partners. Redactions included the entire concept site plan (page 50 & 51) among many other examples. HLB had developers sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), thereby veiling the project from the public further.

In August of 2021, Girdwood Housing Working Group, followed by Land Use and GBOS votes passed this Resolution, asking that attainable housing be included in the development agreement for the 3 parcels being offered for disposal.

September 16, a new Real Estate Director and head of HLB is named: Jim Winegarner.

After Winegarner is not confirmed, assembly member asks who is in charge of Heritage Land Bank during an assembly meeting, the administration responds it is Adam Trombley. Trombley begins to oversee HLB and Real Estate Department.

In December of 2021, at the same moment that Girdwood Fire Department chauffeured Santa Claus around Girdwood, HLB held a public meeting about Holtan Hills. Depite the conflict of time, 100+ residents tuned in to the meeting. Many concerns came forward and the evening’s questions were eventually cut short. (Click here to watch recording of this.)

Disposal of Holtan Hills appeared on the published January 2022 HLB agenda. Six of the seven commissioners were brand new. Prior to the meeting, the agenda item was pulled, but concerned residents of Girdwood still showed up and spoke during public comment.

Residents of Girdwood formed a grass-roots Town Hall at Girdwood Chapel to address the social impacts that Holtan Hills development would create. This meeting had 80 attendees, which included Randy Sulte and John Weddleton, as well as GBOS members present or listening online. This Town Hall was held February 12th 2022.

Another staff change at HLB. HLB Cancels April Meeting.

Heritage Land Bank and CY Investments sign Holtan Hills Development ​Agreement​ dated April 29, 2022. It appears HLB Advisory Committee did not participate in negotiations or possibly evening viewing the document until after it had been signed (or at all).

HLB Cancels May meeting.

In April/May 2022, the Girdwood Chamber of Commerce Resolution underwent 2 meetings with their membership and voted to put forward a resolution to amend the development agreement to include workforce housing or should be cancelled.

In May/June 2022 this resolution was presented at Girdwood Land Use Committee and Girdwood Board of Supervisors meetings.

At it’s second Land Use Committee meeting in June (where residents are entitled to 1 person 1 vote) on June 13 , it passed with a vote of 42-1.

The following day was a LUC/GBOS Town Hall regarding Holtan Hills. It was very well attended with at least 150 participants in person and online. It’s been described as “spirited.” The first hour is presentation from the CY Investments development team. The remainder is questions and comments from the public.

At the June 20 2022 GBOS meeting, Supervisors discussed the Holtan Hills Town Hall. During the Town Hall, it was suggested creating a group of 5 residents to work with the developers. The following notice was issued:

“The Girdwood Board of Supervisors is assembling a Housing Advisory Committee of
approximately 5 members. The Committee will be responsible for representing the
community interests with the developer and HLB who are developing Holtan Hills for
residential housing. Nominations for individuals to be considered for appointment to the Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee should email their resume to:
Nominees must be eighteen (18) years of age or older and
a) a current resident and/or property owner, business owner or designated representative of a non-profit association, and;
b) who has resided in, owned property in, owned a business located in, or operated as a non-profit association for the preceding ninety (90) days or longer in Girdwood Valley.
Or via mail: GBOS – PO Box 390 Girdwood, AK 99587
Applications to be received by 5PM on Friday, July 1, 2022.”

GBOS tabled the Chamber’s resolution until next month to work through language edits. Instead, GBOS wrote a letter summarizing the various issued raised by the community at Town Hall and provided the letter to HLB and the administration.

Many Girdwood residents raised concerns to HLB on their meeting held 6-23-2022. One HLB Commissioner asked for the development agreement to be emailed to him because he had not seen it. Commissioner Wilbanks requested a work session on Holtan Hills. This worksession would eventually be held on October 13, 2022. Recording

Other relevant information and links:

Request for Proposal (RFP) 

Evaluation Committee Memo​
HLB Parcel 6-011 Plat 87-131
HLB Parcel 6-016 Plat 85-38
HLB Parcel 6-017 Plat 73-220
Suppleme​ntal Documents

Worksession No. 2 re Holtan Hills, AO 2022-103 Competitive Disposal of HLB Parcels to CY Investments Documents – December 2, 2022:

DRAFT Concept Plan Phases I-III  (This will change throughout the Planning/Platting process.) Source: HLB website 6/2022.

Governmental Timelines:

10/26/20 – Public Review Period for 2021 Work Plan begins

12/11/20 – End of 45 day public review period for 2021 Work Plan

2/23/21 – HLB 2021 Work Plan Approved by Assembly via Resolution 2021-25

4/7/21 – HLB Posts RFP (RFP was not mentioned on work plan, approved just 6 weeks prior)

4/20/21 – HLB Holds Meeting to Discuss RFP

5/14/21 – Original deadline to submit response to RFP

6/7/21 – Extended due date for submissions

6/29/21 – MOA Posts Selection Committee Results Memo (No elected officials on selection committee. HLB chose committee.)

7/15/21 – Approximate Date Negotiations Begin

12/22/2022 – HLB Presents to Girdwood

4/29/2022 – Date Development Agreement was signed

9/22/2022 – Heritage Land Bank Advisory Committee Public Hearing

10/27/2022 – HLBAC Votes to Dispose with amendments

11/4/2022 – Assembly worksession #1

11/17/2022 – HLBAC re-votes to dispose, again with amendments

12/2/2022 – Assembly worksession #2

12/6/2022 – UPCOMING – Assembly Public Hearing on Disposal

Girdwood Summer Solstice Dance Party! June 18th 7-11 PM

Summer Solstice Dance Party is ON! All ages welcome 7-9 PM. 9 PM and later is for 21+

The evening features two different live music bands and aerial silk performances by Kage Free. 7-9 PM Local Girdwood band, The River Livers, will kick us off. 9-11 PM will be full of 80s dance music from I Love Robots.

This event is a fundraiser for Girdwood, Inc. Not only are you enjoying a fun evening of dancing and music, but the sales help to support a local non-profit. We can’t wait to see you there!

Tickets are on sale now! GO TO:

What is going on in Girdwood?

Many people think of Girdwood as a laid-back ski town, more about recreating, than business.  What lies behind the scenes is actually a very organized and impassioned group of citizens who focus on issues that matter to them most. Girdwood, Inc is one such example of a 501(c)3 voluntary board dedicated to our community. In this newsletter, we will summarize many different topics as relates to our neck of the woods, introduce a community champion and spotlight a regional organization.

Community Champion:

With spring in full swing and summer upon us, we wanted to spotlight Girdwood Bear Aware and its founder, Alayna DuPont. Girdwood Bear Aware is a sponsored organization of Girdwood, Inc.

Alayna moved to Girdwood five years ago to be closer to family and the mountains. She works for the National Park Service and her husband, Phil Zumstein, works at the Glacier District for the Chugach National Forest. She got the idea for Girdwood Bear Aware after early one morning, a bear casually opened their front door and sauntered inside. She was shocked to realize that this was not only accepted as commonplace in town but help for such an incident was an hour away. It felt like it was time for Girdwood to invest in localized and proactive strategies to reduce human-bear conflict. Working with community leadership, Alayna founded Girdwood Bear Aware (GBA). GBA is trained and permitted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to respond when human-bear conflict occurs. While this effort has made an incredible impact, it is really in the hands of each community member to make the biggest difference.

A message from Alayna: “Being bear aware in Girdwood means we are all keeping garbage cans in a garage or secured with straps until the morning of pick up, taking down bird feeders from April-November, making sure dumpsters and public waste bins are always closed locked properly, and keeping doors locked and ground level windows closed. Coexisting with bears in Girdwood is a community issue, we are all in it together!”

The Mountain:

It appears our home Mount Alyeska was the snowiest resort in North America this winter, with well over 800” (60+ feet) of snow.  Many locals and visitors took advantage of the rare treat of weekend continuation of mountain lift operations into mid-May. It will be remembered as “one for the books,” memories of warm spring slush and deep powder days, leaving many hopeful participants wishing for repeat seasons like this.


Girdwood is emerging as a major Municipal and Alaskan attraction, the only destination resort like it in the State.  The Resort’s new Nordic Spa is world class and the community’s many other resources are attracting plenty of visitors. The spa is now open on a limited “Phase I” basis. We understand “Phase 2” to be open in about 45 days. The final addition of “Phase III” and full spa opening is expected this fall. At the top of the tram, Girdwood Inc.’s Roundhouse at Alyeska expects a lot of traffic this season with a strong showing of independent travelers and the reappearance of cruise ship passengers.

Land Use:

Growth and Girdwood’s widening appeal leads to challenges.  One is land, which is needed for commercial, residential, community and industrial needs.  Almost all the unencumbered land around Girdwood is held by the Municipalities’ Heritage Land Bank (HLB).  Girdwood Inc. has been meeting with Anchorage city leaders, advocating for the proper, beneficial use of these municipal lands.


While net growth is limited by a lack of available housing, we are seeing changes to our demographics.  Like many resort towns, housing is being taken by professionals, retirees and others who can decide to live here.  Another challenge is brought about by technology and web-based services that enable people to rent a house like a hotel room. While short term rental can contribute positively toward the local economy, it can simultaneously negatively affect local workforce such as long-term renter displacement.  Despite high buyer demand, very little inventory is coming up for sale. What does come up, sells very fast, usually with multiple offers and often higher than the asking price.


Numerous testimonies were provided to government committees and officials by local businesses regarding the severe staffing and housing shortage from restaurants, service companies and other employers.  As an example of the impact, many restaurants have limited their menus and hours of operation. Several businesses are having to tap the commuting workforce from Anchorage, which can be costly, unpredictable, and is prone to high staff-turnover.  The hiring challenge extends to several industries, with current and potential employees simply unable find a local place to live.

Holtan Hills:

Recent Girdwood Land Use Committee and Girdwood Board of Supervisor’s public meetings have seen an uptick of support for workforce housing be included in the new development project. Suggestions include restrictions to make this housing not eligible to short term rental.  As discussed in our previous newsletters, the Municipality’s Heritage Land Bank (HLB), has released a “Request For Proposal” (RFP) for development on a huge block of land. Part of this RFP land is commonly known as “Holtan Hills.”  Unfortunately, the current selected proposal lacks a clear plan for our most critical need, workforce housing, among other issues.  We are very supportive of development, but we also must do it right.  Visit Girdwood, AKA Girdwood Chamber of Commerce, recently put forward a proposed resolution calling for amending the selected RFP development plan to specifically include workforce housing or suggests the current development plan should be abandoned. This is a very important priority for us, and we encourage individuals and organizations to attend Girdwood Land Use Committee June 13th and write in support of this resolution. Our previous newsletter referenced the April 28th HLB Advisory Commission meeting. This meeting was cancelled “due to staffing shortages” and indicated the next meeting date is May 26th. As of publication of this newsletter, meeting information and agenda has not been publicly noticed. We will post to our Facebook page and website when more information becomes available.


Another important challenge is the obvious lack of adequate childcare in Girdwood. This has become a significant barrier to a strong economy because an excellent service workforce has a high demand for childcare.  We have not found a solution to this, but along with Little Bears, are continuing to seek support for a project to build a new childcare facility in the valley.


Expanding visitor and other activity on the Seward Highway is putting an estimated 7% annual increase of traffic on a road which is already inadequate.  Girdwood Inc. is actively supporting three Highway projects including Seward and Alyeska Highway Intersection into Girdwood, improvements near the dall sheep viewing area, and the highway becoming four lanes with an adjacent bike/pedestrian path.  We are pleased these projects have gained support from the Governor and Department of Transportation. There are milestones where public support will be important.  These highway improvements will save many lives on Alaska’s bloodiest road, as well as reduce costly and frequent road closures.  We will update you in these newsletters, including when critical public comments are needed.


A project worth highlighting is the effort to build a new suspension bridge replacing the former hand tram crossing upper Winner Creek gorge.  This allows for a loop walk on a trail that has become very popular with Anchorage and outside visitors.  The hand tram has now been closed for several years and was not meeting demand at the location, which often resulted in long lines and wait times. We are among those advocating for funding, estimated at about $1.2 million. The goal is that the Forest Service would be ultimately become responsible for the stewardship of the bridge.

A degree of autonomy:

To address many of these issues, we emphasize the need for more decisions and responsibility to be borne by the Girdwood community, instead of back in Anchorage. With the distance between Anchorage and Girdwood, we have many characteristics of a rural town.  We have seen various examples of Anchorage municipal bodies struggling to handle unique Girdwood issues.  On a state level, Girdwood’s representation is being determined by the courts. Currently, there is a pending case, where Girdwood citizen plaintiffs have joined with East Anchorage to oppose new boundaries which would group Girdwood with Eagle River. The Superior court recently ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor but is currently being appealed in the Alaska Supreme Court. If you would like to contribute toward legal fees, you may do so at:

Spotlight Local Organization: Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation

The Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation began with Girdwood Inc.’s sponsorship in 2018. It is now a stand-alone 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping keep Prince William Sound healthy, clean, and wild for all to enjoy. Each year they lead summer volunteer projects in the Sound, including marine debris removal, invasive species mitigation, trail, and recreation site restoration. They also coordinate citizen science opportunities, such as mussels testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Environmental stewardship, community building, and public education are at the heart of what they do. They are kicking off the summer with their annual Natural History Symposium in Whittier and online on May 23rd. For more information, to register for volunteer opportunities, attend the Natural History Symposium, or to become a member, visit

Coming up on May 29th from 11 AM – 4 PM is Girdwood Farmer Market in town square. This event will be held every other Sunday through September. Local vendors may sign up for booths at and we encourage patrons to come support local businesses and vendors.

Lastly, we hope you have been enjoying our newsletters and hope you can attend our Summer Solstice fundraiser on June 18th! Click here to purchase tickets to attend! Funds raised at this event will support future newsletters and help to keep the community informed on important issues. Until next time!

Congratulations 2022 Girdwood Graduates! Photo Credit: Julie Martyn Photography