Area must adapt to meet recreational needs

Posted: Friday, February 29, 2008


  A lone canoe cuts through the water of Johnson Lake last summer. The John Lake State Recreation Area in Kasilof is a popular spot year round. Clarion file photo

A lone canoe cuts through the water of Johnson Lake last summer. The John Lake State Recreation Area in Kasilof is a popular spot year round.

Clarion file photo

From camping in spring, to canoeing and trout fishing in summer, to berry picking in fall, to ice fishing in winter, the Johnson Lake State Recreation Area is a popular spot that gets year-round usage.

However, as the number of people using this area continues to grow annually, so too must the area adapt to meet this recreational demand, according to state resource managers.

"The oldest section of the campground was constructed in the 1960s, with the most recent rehabilitation being done in the early 1980s, so it's been quite a long time since something was done there," said Lucille Baranko, a landscape specialist with the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

Located off of Tustumena Lake Road, near Mile 111 of the Sterling Highway in Kasilof, the Johnson Lake SRA is a 332-acre facility with 50 campsites and 25 day-use sites to accommodate the roughly 24,000 annual visitors.

"It's heavily used and a lot of people use it as a jump off point to fishing the Kasilof River, clamming in Clam Gulch, or recreating in other areas" Baranko said.

Johnson Lake itself has a circumference of 2.4 miles and is stocked with rainbow trout at least once a year by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In 2007 alone, nearly 9,000 trout were released into this water body, and many anglers came to wet a hook in the hope of catching one from shore or by boat, which has also caused some problems.

"People have been creating their own accesses to the lake, which is causing erosion. The boat launch also has five campsites around it, which has caused some user conflicts from campers that want their own space," Baranko said.

To address the increased use over the last 40 years, and to resolve some of these user issues, the Johnson Lake SRA has received funding to restore and relocate the campsites and to protect the sensitive lake habitat.

"We want to improve the shoreline habitat, while still providing access points to the lake," Baranko said.

Additionally the project will strive to make the new campsites safer and up to American Disability Act standards for meeting the requirements of full accessibility. It will also relocate the boat launch and day-use areas away from the campground.

The public is invited to weigh-in on this Johnson Lake SRA project, and two meetings will provide opportunities to review and discuss the preliminary concepts of the upgrades.

"We have a couple of design concepts that could address some of the issues, but we want to know what the community feels is appropriate. We want to hear what their needs for the area are," Baranko said.

An "Open House" will be held at the Kenai River Center off of Funny River Road in Soldotna, on Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. A "Citizens Participation Meeting" will then be held the same day in the conference room of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Building off Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kenai from 5 to 7 p.m.

"We hope the public will attend one or both meetings. We want their help to create a facility that is sustainable for the next 40 years," Baranko said.

For more information on the Johnson Lake SRA project or the upcoming meetings, contact Bill Evans at 907-269-8731.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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