For the Chugiak-Eagle River Star

Alaska’s wildlife can put meat on some folks’ tables, are subjects of dramatic photographs and often grist for compelling stories. But sometimes these creatures are teachers with valuable lessons, not only about getting along in the outdoors, but life itself.

As 2015 hits the history books, tradition dictates that the news media take a look back and provide its users – in our case, readers – with some perspective on what mattered most in the past 12 months.

No. 1 – Fiscal challenge:

Heading in to 2016, there is no doubt the story of 2015 with the weightiest carryover in to the New Year is the anticipated $3.5 billion state budget deficit. It easily bears the greatest impact on the Chugiak-Eagle River area and the state of Alaska as the almighty dollar and its painful lack in state coffers cannot be ignored.

The best words to describe my movements as I climbed out of South Fork Valley into Hanging Valley Dec. 19 of this year were “thrashing,” “floundering,” “slogging” and “flailing.”

On almost every step my 31-inch-long Tubbs, lightweight, state-of-the-art snowshoes sank deep into the soft snow — sometimes more than 12 inches. I regretted not having my trusty 58-inch-long, traditional wooden snowshoes that would have kept me up on the surface as I broke trail.

2015 gave local sports fans quite a few thrills – especially for folks cheering for the Chugiak High School Mustangs with a few bright spots for fans of the Eagle River High School Wolves. Here are our top picks.

No. 1 – Dual baseball titles

When one has lived nearly three-quarters of a century, there are memories of many Christmas trees: from the thick and long-needled Blue and Sitka Spruces we chopped down outside of Seward, to the more sparsely branched White Spruces we found in the wilds near our cabin at Nancy Lake, to expensive greenhouse trees and finally, the reusable, pre-lit trees with no scent and lights that flicker on and off with minds of their own.

Local folks from the Chugiak-Eagle River area were Freezin’ for a Reason as was the theme of this year’s Polar Plunge in to Anchorage’s Goose Lake as the annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Alaska.

In total, the event raised more than $310,000 for the organization that provides sporting opportunities for Alaskans with emotional, mental and physical disabilities.

If any one word serves a central theme for the various holiday celebrations – religious or secular – marking this time of year, it is the word, “light.”

A search committee tasked with selecting candidates to replace current Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff has been formed.

Anchorage School District Board President Kameron Perez-Verdia made the announcement on Dec. 17.

The search committee is expected to contract with executive search firms within and Outside of Alaska. Perez-Verdia said the committee is also tasked with checking with the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) to verify that all eligible candidates in Alaska are considered.

Move over Clark Griswold.

Not only are Mike and Traci Glidden of Eagle River giving you a run for the money in the outdoor musically-timed light show category, the couple also pay a respectable homage to your exterior house decorating skills by including you on the soundtrack that accompanies the display on their home at 18206 Harbor Point Loop.

It’s an idea that has been bandied about before as the Anchorage School District deals with pending budget cuts: Close Gruening Middle School, move the middle school students to what is currently Eagle River High School, return the Fort Richardson high school population to Bartlett High School and the students living in Eagle River proper back to Chugiak High School.

CHS, according to district numbers, is only 56 percent full. In 2014, district numbers crunchers considered the idea, but no action was taken.