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Hunters shooting for access

Native association gates Marathon Road, restricts passage to refuge

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2006

 

  A gate on Marathon Road, just five miles from the intersection of Marathon Road and the Kenai Spur Highway, was found open Friday. But hunters and visitors wanting to access the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are likely to find the gate closed in the future and will need to contact the Kenai Native Association to gain access. Photo by Patrice Kohl

A gate on Marathon Road, just five miles from the intersection of Marathon Road and the Kenai Spur Highway, was found open Friday. But hunters and visitors wanting to access the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are likely to find the gate closed in the future and will need to contact the Kenai Native Association to gain access.

Photo by Patrice Kohl

A pair of bird hunters and some oil field workers were confounded Wednesday afternoon when they discovered their route over Marathon Road had been blocked. The oil field workers were trapped from exiting the road and hunters blocked from entering it.

Earlier in the afternoon, Robert Bird, his son Quincy Bird and his dog had driven Escape Route to Marathon Road, where they planned to do some bird hunting, when they saw something they had never seen before.

Just to the left of where Escape Route meets Marathon Road and where the hunters had planned to turn, a shinny white gate wrapped in red and white reflective tape had been locked across Marathon Road and displayed a red and black “No Trespassing” sign.

Surprised by the gate, Robert and his son moved on to another hunting location.

When they drove past the intersection again about two hours later, Robert and his son noticed a man standing near the gate and decided to stop and see if he knew anything about why the gate was locked.

“We asked him what’s going on, and he said ‘I don’t know, but there’s going to be trouble’,” Robert said.

The man was a Marathon oil field worker and said whoever had locked the gate had blocked him and several other workers from exiting the road, and that he had called someone to bring a bolt cutter.

“He was as mad as a wet hen,” Robert said.

Marathon Road provides access to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where Marathon Oil sends employees to work and many visitors go to hunt. But before the road reaches the refuge gate, it passes through several miles of Kenai Native Association land.

KNA said it started locking the gate last year after people using the land trashed it, dumping garbage in KNA’s gravel pit and using it as a shooting range.

“You can’t sell gravel with that kind of stuff in it,” said KNA President Vernon Stanford.

Marathon Oil and KNA said the Native association has been working with Marathon Oil to ensure oil field workers have access, and that Wednesday’s incident was due to a mixup with the locks.

When the Clarion visited the gate Friday, it was open. But future visitors are likely to find the gate locked.

Stanford said KNA plans to keep the gate locked regularly, but that hunters can still drive past the gate to access the refuge if they contact KNA first.

For a $10 deposit, visitors seeking access to the refuge can borrow a key from KNA to unlock the gate.

“It’s pretty lax, all they need to do is call,” said Darrell Tepp, an office assistant for KNA.

The KNA office is only open weekdays, but voice mail is closely monitored, Stanford said.

Refuge officials, however, say they would like to see the gate remain open and visitors’ access unhindered, and that although KNA may own land surrounding the road just beyond the gate, it does not own the road itself.

Attempts to reach an agreement over the gate have been unsuccessful, said Bill Kent, supervisory park ranger.

“It’s an odd situation,” he said. “They feel like they have the right to close that gate, we feel that they don’t.”

Standford asked why KNA should have to allow free public access to the portion of Marathon Road running over their land, while the refuge maintains a locked gate over the road at its boundary.



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