Bernie Karl, Owner, Chena Power
Bernie Karl was born the sixth of sixteen children and grew up on a farm in Peoria, Illinois. Bernie’s father was a world-class photographer for Caterpillar, the company that manufactures heavy construction and mining equipment and has its home base in Peoria. Bernie worked at Caterpillar until, at age 20, itchy feet and a dream of making it big had him venturing north to the Last Frontier, moving to Alaska during the pipeline boom of the 1970s.
Bernie and Connie Parks-Karl purchased Chena Hot Springs Resort from the State of Alaska in 1998. Bernie’s vision for the resort, in addition to his other passion, recycling, was to make the resort more environmentally friendly and use geothermal technology to power it. An engineer was hired and they went to work. Patents were issued, new technology developed and new business partnerships formed.
Today that vision not only provides heat and electricity for the resort, but also keeps the Aurora Ice Museum a cool 25 degrees Fahrenheit inside year-round. The geothermal heated greenhouses produce lettuce and tomatoes for the resort’s restaurant and over 45 employees on a year-round basis, with a few different types of fruit grown for good measure.
The resort is truly a one-of-a-kind destination and the site of the annual Renewable Energy Fair.
In 2016, Chena Hot Springs Resort became 100% employee owned! Bernie and Connie decided to pass the resort on to all the dedicated employees who have helped to make it a household name around Alaska and a unique gem known the world over.