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KRSMA Board hears updates on Kasilof boat retrieval, deferred maintenance

Posted: November 19, 2013 - 11:04pm
File photo/Peninsula Clarion In this May 27, 2010 file photo drift boat anglers get underway at the public launch just above the Sterling Highway bridge on the Kasilof River. State Parks officials are still working to find a final location for a state-funded boat retrieval on the river.
File photo/Peninsula Clarion In this May 27, 2010 file photo drift boat anglers get underway at the public launch just above the Sterling Highway bridge on the Kasilof River. State Parks officials are still working to find a final location for a state-funded boat retrieval on the river.

A boat retrieval project planned for the lower Kasilof River has yet to find a permanent home as State Parks personnel negotiate with the third choice on their list — the Swanson property at river mile 4.5.

The Kasilof project, along with the $20 million in deferred maintenance in the state park system on the Kenai Peninsula were up for discussion during the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board meeting Thursday in Soldotna.

The Kasilof Boat Retrieval is a publicly funded projected aimed at addressing the lack of a public boat takeout on the lower portion of the river. Currently, drift boats can access the river at the Alaska State Parks public boat launch but must rely on private exit points on the lower portion of the river.

In late 2011, The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation received $2 million to fund public feedback, property investigation and site purchase; thus far no property has been purchased.

State Parks Area Superintendent Jack Blackwell said Thursday that the Swanson property was attractive as it had a milder slope than the two other sites that had been considered and could possibly be graded in such a way that boat owners could back vehicles down to the river rather than relying on a winching system to pull drift boats out of the water.

There is also less tidal influence at the Swanson site, he said.

Brent Johnson, KRSMA Board Member representative from the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said he had been told by Kasilof residents that the Swanson property was a better choice for the boat retrieval than the Trujillo property which was higher up on its list of potential sites.

“(The Trujillo Property) is in a subdivision,” Johnson said after the meeting. “There’s a lot of people in that subdivision that didn’t want to have the traffic. There are some other private boat retrievals and there’s some people that are real unhappy with that setup.”

Blackwell also told board members about deferred maintenance in the state parks system the Kenai Peninsula.

“We have roughly, let’s say $60 million worth of deferred maintenance in the State of Alaska in our parks system,” Blackwell said. “We’re in the process of revisiting it, so I would say that $60 million might be a little higher.”

Calling the number a “significant amount,” Blackwell said the state had been successful in seeing funding coming from the state to address some immediate needs such as roofs on some public use cabins.

“This fall, our state park employees replaced two roofs on public use cabins — one in Shoup Bay which is in the Prince William Sound and the other in Thumb Cove,” Blackwell said in an interview after the meeting. “We were able to replace these cabin roofs that were leaking and that was a common complaint that we heard this summer. We are really excited to be able to have deferred maintenance funding to make this happen. A new roof is probably going to last 15-20 years in that environment.”

Parks employees also installed a new well at Deep Creek, Blackwell said.

Other deferred maintenance includes restroom and toilet replacements on the peninsula.

The new toilets — which can cost about $70,000 to replace — have been primarily funded through deferred maintenance, Blackwell said.

According to the state’s 2012 December deferred maintenance priority list several projects are in need of funding including:

■ Upgrading pressurized water system to serve all four camping areas and improving safe access for the boat launching operation on the Anchor River State Recreation Area;

■ Modifying park facilities for disability access at Big Eddy, Bings Landing Campground, Cooper Landing Boat Launch, Funny River, Izaak Walton and Kenai Flats Unit in the Kenai River Special Management Area;

■ Rehabilitating Bridges at Slikok Creek;

■ Rehabilitating severely damaged banks at Pipeline Crossing;

■ Upgrading septic at the Pillar Boat Launch to a Department of Environmental Conservation approved septic system;

■ Reconditioning the access road and parking area at Captain Cook State Park;

■ Reconditioning trails at the Stormy Lake Swim Beach;

■ Restoring the canoe takeout at Swanson River;

■ Restoring the riverbank to protect from erosion at the Kasilof River State Recreation Site.

“I think the issue is we haven’t been able to keep up with the maintenance of our park facilities with the level of funding that we’ve seen every year. We’ve just not been able to stay on top of maintenance ever year,” Blackwell said.

An updated list of deferred maintenance priorities is currently being drafted.

Rys Miranda, Chief of State Parks Design and Construction which manages the list of projects, did not return calls for comment on updated priorities Tuesday.

Other state parks updates included the Kachemak Bay State Park Revision Plan which is in its beginning stages.

An open house was held in Homer on Nov. 13 and Blackwell said anyone who uses the park could visit the state parks website and fill out a survey which would help with the update.

“The management plan is a really important tool that state parks uses to help us guide the management of the state park and the state wilderness park. It will likely be in place for 15 to 20 years before it’s revised again,” Blackwell said.

Clarion File material was used in this article.

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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