Jackson Mobile Home Park Profiles: Darius Kasprzak

Kasprzak - in blue, far left - competes in ComFish Fisherman's Contest. Here he ties a selection of knots.
Kasprzak – in blue, far left – competes in ComFish Fisherman’s Contest. Here he ties a selection of knots.

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The closure of Jackson Mobile Home Park on May 1 means that people have been scrambling to find alternative spots for their homes or businesses, other housing arrangements, or are even considering moving out-of-state. This week we share the experiences of several displaced home and business owners of Jackson Mobile Home Park.

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Darius Kasprzak is a commercial fisherman and president of the Alaska Jig Association. He says he spent much of his youth on south end of the island living a rural subsistence lifestyle and moved to the city in 1983 at the age of 14. Now 46, he’s still living off the island’s natural resources, which is one reason why he wanted to buy a trailer in Jackson Mobile Home Park.

“Being a commercial fisherman, a hook and line fisherman, I’d been eyeing that place, and I really wanted it, and I saw it go for sale. I left town with $12 dollars in my pocket and had a good fishing trip and came back three, four days later and was able to put a down payment on it and got into it.”

Kasprzak says since 2007, the park has provided him with affordable housing where he can get off the boat and take a hot shower.

And he has positive things to say about the neighborhood.

“I’ve really enjoyed the community there, living there. I’ve heard all these rumors about how bad Jackson’s is, and I believe that was [mismanagement] by the prior regime that caused some of the problems, but I’ve had no problems there. I’ve really enjoyed it, my neighbors on both sides have always been very pleasant.”

Residents have noted that the new park owners cleaned up a lot of the drug activity, although it may be too, little too late for those who must pack up and leave. Kasprzak explains the timing is bad in others ways.

“It’s been a pretty tough fishing season with the El Niño and the really bad weather and this. This comes at a really bad time. These three months of fishing, you know, March, April, May, June, I mean this is what makes or breaks the season. Downtime and moving a trailer and stuff, you basically lose out on the majority of your income for the whole year.”

Kasprzak says his home is a 40-year-old trailer in good condition, and the city is now valuing it at zero.

“I just filed out some paperwork to contest that. You know, I have it insured for what I bought it for. If there would be a place to put it, it would still be valuable, but this is Kodiak. There’s nowhere to move it to. There’s very limited options.”

He says he considers himself fortunate, because he’s an able-bodied fisherman who has two fishing boats in the harbor and, no matter what, he’ll have a bunk where he can lay his head. He says he doesn’t plan on leaving town.

“Well, I’ve put the time in now. I’ve been commercial fishing out of Kodiak for thirty-two years. It’s pretty hard to go to another port and start over when there’s been so much experience and knowledge and camaraderie gained in this one. Also, I’m very proud of living in the town because it’s renewable energy, resource base, and all that. It’s very unique. I’m pretty grounded in the community here.”

Kasprzak says he wished he saw more help from the community.

“We’re basically talking about a village. We’re talking about a borough community that’s being eradicated for land development. And if this was to happen to any village, if you were to have Port Lions or Chiniak or Ahkiok eradicated for the purpose of land development, private land development, there would be a huge outcry and uproar over of this. But because it’s a community of mobile homes, it’s somehow not taken that seriously.”

He says he believes the late owner, Dell Jackson, intended to keep the area as a mobile home park and would have been sad to see where it’s ended up.

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