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Helen Nienhueser

Photo of Helen Nienhueser
1936
Biography

Helen was raised in Pennsylvania, received a BA degree from Brown University (Pembroke College) in 1957 and a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1985. Helen first visited Alaska in the summer of 1957 for a summer job at the Fairbanks Girl Scout camp and moved permanently to Alaska in 1959, homesteading in the far reaches of Eagle River. She has been a significant player over the past fifty years in shaping Alaska. Helen’s contributions have been many and varied, as a community activist, professional planner, author and conservationist.

In 1970, she organized a successful state-wide grassroots movement to reform Alaska’s abortion law, making Alaska the third state in the country (and three years before Roe v. Wade) to permit a woman to choose abortion in consultation with her doctor. In 1971 Helen helped establish the Alaska Center for the Environment and served as volunteer staff and as a board member for nine years. As a professional planner at the Department of Natural Resources from 1976-1994, Helen developed procedures for state land selections and land use planning processes that attempt to balance development and conservation with genuine public input. At the Juneau women’s conference in 1996, Helen initiated the discussion that led to the formation of the Alaska Women’s Network. She has served as a trustee of the Alaska Conservation Foundation for thirteen years, including chair in 2007 and currently serves today. From 1996-2003, Helen chaired the Governor’s TRAAK Board which led to better land and trail management throughout the state. On the municipal level, she served for six years on the Parks and Recreation Commission and was involved in any number of conservation and recreational issues surrounding parks in Anchorage. In 1983, as a community activist and conservationist, Helen started advocating for a park in Midtown. It is due to her persistence and committed leadership over the next twenty-five years that the Cuddy Family Midtown Park became a reality and officially opened in August 2008. She currently serves on the boards of Common Ground and Alaska Geographic.

Helen is undoubtedly best known to tourists and Alaskans alike as the co-author of the pioneering hiking book 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska. This “bible” has enabled generations of Alaskans and visitors to experience the wonders of the natural world in Alaska. Initially published in 1972 and now in its fifth edition, this work has set the standard for excellence and accuracy in Alaska hiking guides.

Helen has received numerous awards over the years in recognition of her many accomplishments. She has been honored by the Governor, Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources, Mayor, Municipality of Anchorage, as a YWCA Woman of Achievement and is an honorary lifetime member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska.

Helen is a leader with ideas, who skillfully chairs meetings, works hard, and gets people working together. Her commitment to founding and then doing the hard work of our environmental, park and community organizations has made Alaska’s lands, trails and communities all better places.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/DLjNAdbsLuE

Notes

Helen was raised in Pennsylvania, received a BA degree from Brown University (Pembroke College) and a MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  She first visited Alaska for a summer job in 1957 and moved permanently to Alaska in 1959, homesteading in Eagle River. She has been a significant player in shaping Alaska.  In 1970, she organized a successful statewide grassroots movement to reform Alaska’s abortion law. In 1971, Helen helped establish the Alaska Center for the Environment and served as volunteer staff and board member. As a planner at the Department of Natural Resources, Helen developed procedures for state land selections and land use planning.  She has long served as a trustee, including chair, of the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Helen chaired the Governor’s TRAAK Board and has served on the Municipality of Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Helen is credited with the creation of the Cuddy Family Midtown Park for her advocacy over twenty-five years.

Helen is undoubtedly best known as the co-author of the pioneering hiking book 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska. Now in its fifth edition, this book set the standard for Alaska hiking guides.  She received many awards, including those from the Governor, Legislature, Department of Natural Resources, Mayor, Municipality of Anchorage, YWCA (Woman of Achievement) and Mountaineering Club of Alaska.  Helen’s commitment to founding and then doing the hard work of our environmental, park and community organizations has made Alaska’s lands, trails and communities all better places.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/DLjNAdbsLuE