Private contractors reopen state parks

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Seven Matanuska-Susitna parks closed by the state last year will begin reopening in private hands over the weekend.

Popular camping sites, including two on Big Lake, will once again offer facilities like restrooms and picnic areas.

Kepler-Bradley Lakes State Recreation Area will charge a fee for the first time, but will also offer camping.

One company, Lifetime Adventures, of Palmer, will operate state recreation sites at North and South Big Lake, Finger Lake, Rocky Lake and Kepler-Bradley. Another company will run Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site, and a third will run King Mountain State Recreation Site.

Dan and Barbara McDonough, owners of Lifetime Adventures, expect that only South Big Lake won't be ready to open this weekend.

As required by the state, the contractors will staff each park with one host and pay for the cost of maintaining facilities, said Dan McDonough. The hosts will provide basic enforcement and call Alaska State Troopers if they need help.

In return, the company gets to keep the visitor fees.

McDonough told the Anchorage Daily News that the parks will be well-kept, some with bike and kayak rentals. His company already runs the Eagle River campground for state parks as well as a rental concession at Eklutna Lake and a guide service at Brooks Lodge in Katmai National Park.

McDonough said visitors should not see any major changes in this first year, except at Kepler-Bradley, located just outside Palmer on the Glenn Highway.

State officials stopped servicing the Matanuska-Susitna parks last year. Limited camping was available but only to walk-in campers.

At the time, the Knowles administration blamed budget cuts written by Republican lawmakers for the closures, while lawmakers accused the governor of ignoring available parks money to make legislators look bad.

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