"Loved to death" is an oft-used phrase when it comes to fishing holes on the Kenai Peninsula.
That phrase might fit the area downstream from Bing's Landing in Sterling too, a popular state boat launch, campground and jumping off point for bank anglers during the red salmon run.
It's the latter use, and the popularity of an area known as the "Backline," that has the attention of the Department of Natural Resource's Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
Jack Sinclair, the area superintendent for Parks, said that in the past 20 years they've seen use of the Backline -- a stretch of bank on the northerly side of the Kenai River adjacent to the Naptowne Rapids -- by bank anglers skyrocket during sockeye runs.
Sinclair said the division will be presenting long-term concept plans to address the issues there at the next Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board meeting on Thursday, and that Parks is in line to receive $300,000 to make some short-term improvements this coming summer.
"Bing's itself is consistently overwhelmed with parking problems from July into September and that's only for boating access," Sinclair said in an interview on Wednesday. "We know there's a demand for boat trailer parking to access the river upstream and that's not even considering all the demand that's taking place for the sockeyes, as well as rainbow and silver fishing on the Backline."
Bing's was designed as a campground and boat launch, Sinclair explained, not as a day use area for bank anglers, who struggle to find parking at the height of the season.
As a result, residents of the adjacent neighborhoods, including Semsel Road and Rapids Avenue, have seen their yards and streets turned into public parking and access areas as anglers make their way to the river.
A lack of walkways leading down the steep bluff to the water's edge has also the created eroding trails, Sinclair said.
"The severe resource damage from people scrambling down banks and down these social trails to get to the fishing hole has created a huge problem," he said, "And from a community perspective, the lack of parking and sanitary facilities has created what some people would call dire circumstances for the neighborhood."
There is one existing latrine near the Backline, but Sinclair said some anglers don't use it, as it's not close enough to where they fish.
He said Parks plans to improve an already existing access road off of Rapids Avenue leading to the bluff this summer so it can construct walkways along the bluff and install two or three designated stairways to get down to the river.
Sinclair said they are also seeking some additional funds to start a "Streamwatch program," similar to the volunteer program put in place by the Chugach National Forest along the Russian River to educate users on appropriate and safe uses.
The long-term plan calls for the construction of an access road that will lead from Bing's Landing Road to a smaller long-term parking area, as well as a much larger short-term parking area.
A fence line is also being proposed along the park boundary adjacent to Rapids Avenue so users will have to make use of the improved access area.
Additional trails, elevated walkways, stairs and bathroom facilities would be included in the plan, as well.
Sinclair said the concept plans will be presented at the Thursday board meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the River Center on Funny River Road, and that he is hoping to gather public input on the plan.
Dante Petri can be reached at email@example.com.
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