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Econ 919 — Between a rockslide and a hard place

Miller's Landing
Margaret Davis
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Miller's Landing
Until this weekend, Miller's Landing was offering the only transport to and from the community of Lowell Point, near Seward.

Miller’s Landing in Lowell Point isn't in the business of water taxis.

But you wouldn’t know that today. When a landslide blocked off the short road between Seward and Lowell Point on May 7, the business canceled its camping and touring bookings through most of the month — the typical start of its busy season — and immediately started using its boats to, instead, shuttle trapped tourists and residents who need to get to work and school.

For a while, they were the only way to get between the 100-person community and the Seward harbor. (Another fleet of water taxis started operating between Seward and Lowell Point Sunday.) And they’ve been working in that emergency mode since the day of the landslide — often over long, 16-hour days.

Co-owner Chance Miller said he just sat down for the first time to calculate how many people his team has transported in the last two weeks. He says he counted 2,500.

Miller's Landing two-way

Chance Miller: Of the 2,500 people that we transported, I think we only collected payment from 441 of them.

So the market value of the people we transported was something like $98,000, if we were going to charge people for that. But I think we've collected a total of $13,000, which is crazy. It doesn't doesn't cover our payroll or our fuel or anything. It doesn't even come close.

But we got a lot of charity funds. Somebody started to GoFundMe and it was amazing. I think the pilots’ association started a GoFundMe and they got almost $10,000 or something in a matter of a couple days.

We basically didn't want to be the only people that were able to taxi anyone or, you know, get funds for taxiing people. So we gave all that money to the Lowell Point Community Council so that they can pay the locals back for any out-of-pocket for that transport.

So, hopefully it provides a vehicle to sort of reimburse anybody that had to pay for their clients or had to pay for themselves. We didn't want to charge anybody for this, but we also have to try to stay afloat.

KDLL: I know that right now, everyone's kind of functioning in emergency mode. But are you worried about the long-term effects of this time on your business?

CM: Yeah, of course. Of course we are. And that's something that we've been trying, I think, to not think about.

But it's unignorable and it’s starting to become a concern as we sort of look harder and at the bottom line. We're hoping that, you know, the estimation that we have is the same as the one that everybody has and that's that the landslide will be cleared by about the end of this month, the first part of June.

And we can try to make a comeback, you know, for lack of a better term. We electrified one of our campground spaces, we added like 65 pedestals for electricity this winter and spring, which is a big investment. And of course now we can't we can't rent RV sites, right? There's no road. So the campground’s taking a big hit.

But, I mean, there's two different things. There's the hit that everybody's taking here that does business on Lowell Point. We're not alone. We're probably one of the bigger businesses here, but everybody is suffering financially and impacted by this.

And then the other thing is, of course, the cost of doing the thing that we did. And to some extent, you know, I think my brother and I kind of agree that we didn't do it to make money, obviously. We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do at the time and it was, I think, unarguably the right thing to do.

KDLL: It sounds like your mentality is you're doing what you can, and it's going okay right now, but at some point you're gonna need to get focused on getting back to normal.

CM: Well, yeah, I mean — this isn't what we do. It's what we can do, of course we can do it. It’s what we want to do, of course we want to help. And we are.

But you know, at some point, hopefully, we can kind of get back to normal here and all of us can start operating.

I was born in Seward and I grew up out here. And my grandmother homesteaded basically half the point here, and I've lived here in my entire life and I think my brother feels the same way, you know — this is probably the right thing to do. Hopefully business comes back as soon as the road is clear and everybody's just fine. But it is a little scary right now, and I think everybody's a little worried about the money end of things and the whole community.

But these are really good people and I think they're gonna be great. I think we're gonna be fine.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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