With the spring thaw in full swing, state park rangers also are in full swing, getting the parks ready for use in two weeks.
According to Jacqui Erion, a ranger stationed in Kasilof, rangers have been making the parks safe for use. Primarily, they have been clearing out spruce trees killed by spruce bark beetles to eliminate as much fire hazard as they can.
"That's been our main focus this season," Erion said, "trying to get those out of the way."
Erion said all parks facilities will be open for use on May 1. However, the fee boards listing user fees are not expected to be in place until around May 15.
"If the fee boards aren't up, it's OK," Erion said. "We're not collecting fees."
When the fees are collected, though, there will be some changes from last year's charges.
"We've actually increased our fees," she added.
With the exception of Ninilchik Beach and Funny River, all Kenai Peninsula campgrounds will have a $10 per night fee for each site. Funny River will be $10 per vehicle and Ninilchik Beach will be $5 per site.
"All the fees will be pretty much consistent," Erion explained.
She said the fee boards won't be up, in part, because the rangers cannot get through snow well.
"Because of our budget, we don't have four-wheel drive vehicles," she said.
Out-of-town work also will slow down preparation.
All the rangers will be away next week in Anchorage for training, Erion said.
Fees aren't the only changes in place for this season, either.
The state has changed the organization of the lower Kenai Peninsula and formed a new ranger district.
"They've reclassified this area down here as the Coastal District," Erion said. "They've included Kasilof south through Anchor River."
The purpose behind this is to have rangers located centrally in various areas, where they can be of more help to park users.
"I think it's going to be real beneficial for the public," Erion said. "They should be seeing more rangers."
Erion, whose area includes Kasilof and Clam Gulch, said the season will start just in time for a run of good clamming tides beginning May 3.
"People are ready to get out and clam dig," she said. "They are ready to do something."
With recent tides, there have been some people who go clamming and then get stuck because they do not have vehicles with enough traction to get off the wet sand.
"We're encouraging people to come down and be safe," she said, recommending four-wheel drive vehicles.
The parks are not expected to be clear of all the "dirty, cruddy" snow by May 1, Erion said.
"If they're going to picnic, it might be a good idea not to do it until mid-May," she said.
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