300 Villages: Coffman Cove
This week on AK, we’re heading to the small community of Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast. Carolyn Duncan is the mayor of Coffman Cove.
My name is Carolyn Duncan and I’m mayor here in Coffman Cove, Alaska down in Southeast on Prince of Wales Island.
It did start as a logging camp, but the people who lived here became such neighbors and friends and family to each other over the years, it was a very happy camp and a very stable one. People’s families started to grow up here instead of moving here and there to work. And it was a big, what we call homegrown, group here who just simply wanted to stay, so they started petitioning for land and that’s what they did.
The heart of our community always has been the school. And I’m sitting right here as I speak with you in the very first school house in Coffman Cove. It’s now serving as our city hall. But the school, by which we mean the students and the teachers and the atmosphere a whole thing.
[The] biggest day of our year is graduation, because we’re saying goodbye to children we’ve raised here in many cases.
Toward the end of the 90s there, the logging shut down completely. You know, between beginning to go in about the mid-90s and by 2000 it was gone. And people who were then making, you know, $42,000 a year, today make $22,000 a year, so it really had a huge economic impact. We went from 60 kids in the school when the logging camp was active down to around 10 a couple of years ago.
And we’ve worked very hard to boost morale around here and make little jobs available to people. So, today I’m proud to say we have 28 students in our school. We have a beautiful view out over Clarence Strait, so about 7 miles of water. It gets to be pretty big water there. And that’s what we view. We’re on the east side of Prince of Wales looking toward Edelin Island there, so it’s quite a beautiful view.
Our big event of the year is in August; it’s our arts and seafood festival and we’re very, very proud of it. We’ve worked hard to bring that on and make that a wonderful, welcoming event for people from all over, and we certainly would love to see other people from Alaska come to that.
I think anyone who comes any time of the year will be struck by how friendly the people are and how much we value you coming to us.