With the public comment period ending in a week for the draft of the Kachemak Bay State Park and Wilderness Park Management Plan, Homer residents are taking a closer look at the guidebook for managing the two local state parks.
From 6-8 p.m. tonight, Nov. 8, at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, the Friends of the Kachemak Bay State Park holds a meeting to discuss issues in the plan. Alaska State Park Ranger Jason Okuly will attend. Last month on Oct. 29, Department of Natural Resources representatives also held an open house on the draft plan at the visitor center. Interested participants moved around tables with copies of the plan and maps and met with park officials to ask questions about it.
“State Parks, they came down,” said Mako Haggerty, president of the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park. “I got the sense at the last meeting their ears were open and they were listening.”
The draft management plan updates a plan adopted in 1995. It includes management guidance and recommendations for the two parks covering much of the lower Kenai Peninsula along Kachemak Bay and around the tip of the peninsula. The draft plan also includes the Diamond Creek State Recreation Site, Eveline State Recreation Site and Overlook Park State Recreation Site in the Homer area. The plan also includes a trail management plan with recommendations for trail sustainability, design and management criteria.
A nonprofit group supporting the parks, the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park has concerns about the draft plan, Haggerty said. Among the issues they’ve raised are changes to the Tutka Bay Hatchery, changes in recreational and natural zones, and proposals to allow helicopter skiing and drone use.
“We kind of feel that can get out of hand if it isn’t nipped in the bud,” Haggerty said of drones.
Expanded helicopter use also is a concern of Tom Young, a fixed-wing aircraft pilot and hunter. Currently, limited helicopter landings are allowed on Grewingk Glacier. The draft plan allows for the possibility of winter heliskiing landing permits to be issued to one operator on a competitive basis in the Sadie Cove-Tutka Bay area, said Monica Alvarez, section chief of DNR Resource Assessment and Development.
Young said helicopter use and landings can be hard on wildlife, especially mountain goats.
“It’s very intrusive and annoying,” he said. “…This is a unique place that is different than any other place in the state, much less the world. … It’s a fragile environment. I think we should just leave it alone.”
Haggerty said another group, the Kachemak Bay State Park Citizens Advisory Board, voted to not accept the draft. Haggerty, a water taxi owner and operator, also sits on the advisory board.
“That sent the message to them (DNR), take it back, take your comments, redo it and bring it back to us as a draft,” he said. “That’s what we want: a revised draft.”
Alvarez said so far her office has received about 70 comments, all unique letters.
“Many of them are fairly detailed,” she said. “My hope is we get many more.”
Alvarez said issues people have raised include concerns over helicopter use, the hatchery, drone use, public use cabins, mooring buoys, and the ability of the park to manage proposed trails and facilities.
“People are picking and diving into it,” Alvarez said. “…We have a lot of work to do. We want to make sure we understand them (comments) thoroughly.”
Alvarez didn’t want to predict when the final plan would be issued. The next step is to consider comments and come up with a revised and final plan. The DNR Commissioner ultimately makes the decision on approval.
Comments for the Public Review Draft of the Kachemak Bay State Park and Wilderness Park Management Plan must be received no later than Friday, Nov. 16. Comments submitted become public information under AS 40.25.110- AS 40.25.125. Written comments can be mailed, emailed or faxed to: Kachemak Bay State Park Planning, 550 West 7th Ave., Suite 1050, Anchorage, AK 99501, Fax: 907-269-8915, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The draft plan is available at the Homer Public Library, the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, and online at dnr.alaska.gov/parks/plans/kbay/kbayplan.htm.