Friends of Kennicott | working for people & place


Our History

Our first major accomplishment was to raise state and federal funds to perform emergency stabilization on nine Kennicott Mill Site buildings. Between 1991 and 1994 a local contractor and a 100% local crew repaired roofs and foundations to stabilize key structures in the privately-owned millsite. Realizing the benefits public ownership would bring, Friends also began to lobby for NPS acquisition of the mill site. In partnership with the Conservation Fund, these efforts succeeded in 1998 when a federal appropriation resulted in the acquisition of the mill site and mines, and paved the way for creation of the Kennecott National Historic Landmark.

With Congress specifically supporting a community based partnership concept for management of Kennicott in the legislative record for the appropriation, Friends of Kennicott actively worked with the local community and the NPS to realize a shared vision for the future. Friends facilitated planning for the cooperative management of Kennicott by the park and local non-profits through multi-stakeholder planning meetings and the creation of several key planning documents. Friends secured state and federal funds for the restoration of the Recreation Hall, which was completed in 2002 with matching funds from the Rasmuson Foundation and others. From 2002 to 2009 the Kennecott Recreation Hall was co-managed by Friends of Kennicott in partnership with the NPS, and its mining era purpose continues today as a space dedicated to community use. 

Today, Friends of Kennicott is looking to broaden its horizons to better meet our mission: 
Friends of Kennicott is a locally-based nonprofit organization established to assist the National Park Service’s efforts in preserving and managing the historic resources of the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark in a way that maintains the character of Kennicott and McCarthy for the visiting public and resident alike.

Our core purposes include 1) enhancing connections between the McCarthy/Kennicott community and the National Landmark, 2) helping maintain Kennicott’s authentic character in the context of a thriving bush community, and 3) facilitating other nonprofit partnership opportunities with the National Park Service.

In recent years, Friends of Kennicott facilitated a new management structure for the Kennecott Recreation Hall. The Rec Hall is currently operated under a lease agreement between the National Park Service and the Wrangell Mountains Center (WMC), a local nonprofit connecting people with wildlands through art, science, and education in the Wrangell Mountains. With year-round staffing, the WMC can work more actively with the community and the NPS on day-to-day Recreation Hall operations, thus increasing its availability to local and national communities. With this transition, Friends of Kennicott is devoting more energy to tracking overall stabilization efforts and working with the NPS, local community, and statewide and national organizations interested in mining history and historic preservation to implement the light touch/partnership vision for Kennicott that provided the consensus foundation for NPS acquisition. 


Highlights from our history and accomplishments
Before 1988: McCarthy landowners and businesses, miners, historical preservation advocates, conservationists, and tourist-related folks brainstorm how to save Kennicott's deteriorating buildings.

1988-1989: Friends of Kennicott, Historic Preservation Fund, forms to facilitate emergency stabilization of historic buildings in the Kennicott Mill site and eventual NPS acquisition. Alaska Legislature passes resolution in favor of NPS acquisition of the Kennicott Mill site.

1990: Friends of Kennicott is officially chartered with the following original Mission: “to preserve, restore and render available to the public the historic mine building located at Kennecott.”  Kennicott is named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”  Joseph Sax report is published: “Keeping Special Places Special: McCarthy, Kennicott and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park – A Great Challenge, A Unique Opportunity.”

1992: Both Congress and the Alaska Legislature appropriate funding for emergency stabilization. NPS and Friends of Kennicott agree on pre-acquisition construction priorities under a Friends contractor. NPS begins asbestos clean-up with funding from Kennecott Copper Corporation.

1993: Friends of Kennicott receives two national awards: “Take Pride in America,” and a Department of the Interior “Volunteer Service Award.”

1994: Friends prepared “A Proposal for Ownership & Management of the Kennicott Property: Protecting the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Alaska’s Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park.”

1995-1997: Acquisition discussions ramp up with additional assistance from The Conservation Fund. Friends of Kennicott receives a national Partnership Leadership Award.

1998: NPS acquires Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark with dedicated federal appropriation.

1999-2000: Reports and Plans: “Partnership Management Strategy” prepared for Friends, NPS and State Office of History & Archeology, June 1999. “NPS Interim Management Plan” (2000), and “Vision 2000” (Mike Loso).  Friends adopts new Mission Statement.

2002 to 2009: Stabilization and restoration of Recreation Hall completed with matching funds from Rasmuson Foundation and others. Recreation Hall Management in partnership with NPS.

2010: Friends of Kennicott revitalizes! The organization revisited its core values, and renewed efforts to track overall stabilization efforts and work with the NPS, local community, and statewide and national organizations to implement the light touch/partnership vision for Kennecott that provided the original consensus foundation for NPS acquisition. Recreation Hall management was transferred to locally-based nonprofit Wrangell Mountains Center. Friends also reacquainted new park staff with the administrative history of the Landmark, and conducted a community “brainstorming” session about current management issues.

2010-2012: Friends successfully advocated for a partnership management vision and a “light touch” approach during the revision of Kennecott Operations Plan. Friends also supported efforts to redefine management of the Recreation Hall that is mutually beneficial to the NPS, the Wrangell Mountains Center and the community.

2011-2016: Friends dedicated substantial volunteer time participating in the NPS effort to develop an Interpretive Concept Plan for Kennecott. As follow-up, Friends volunteers also participated in the much more intensive effort to translate these concepts into detailed interpretive themes and specifications for the actual interpretive exhibits, due for installation as soon as 2017.

2014-2016: Friends assisted the NPS in development of "Visual Communication Guidelines" for the Kennecott Landmark. These guidelines apply to NPS signage and other forms of visual communication. The technical information is also available on a volunteer basis to local landowners and businesses.

2015 and beyond: Friends is working with the NPS on ways to incorporate locally-produced art into the Kennecott interpretive project.  

2016 and beyond: Friends and the Alaska Association of Historic Preservation formed a partnership to seek support and funding for reconstruction of the iconic High Grade Ore Chute, a key feature of the 14-story Concentration Mill building.  Friends and AAHP are seeking $5.5 million to secure match funds from the Helium Act.