Trashed public use areas prompt closure at Lake Louise state campground
Two popular state-owned sites were inundated with trash over the holiday weekend, prompting one to close and the other to stir conversations over user and state responsibility.
On Wednesday, Alaska State Parks announced that Lake Louise Public Recreation Area will be closed indefinitely.
Photographs of overflowing dumpsters at the Kasilof River Special Use Area widely shared on social media prompted Republican Sen. Peter Micciche to reach out to the Department of Natural Resources, which operates the site.
“What we saw this last weekend was unacceptable,” Micciche said. “We’ve had pieces of this over the years, but we’re just starting off on the dipnet season.”
Micciche says he has spoken with the DNR’s Division of Mining, Land and Water about improving the service schedule for the site, but that it’s also the responsibility of users to pack out what they pack in when facilities are full.
“We’ve talked to the department about someone sort of being over monitoring what happens at the Kasilof Special Use Area as well as when things start picking up on the Kenai. And we just simply expect better, from all parties involved,” Micciche said. “But we are asking Alaskans. We want to be gracious hosts, but we also need you to be respectful guests.”
Micciche says over the winter there will be more discussions on how to improve the facilities and that may include discussing a user fee.
More than 330 miles Northeast at Lake Louise, staffing challenges, in part caused by COVID-19, led Alaska State Parks to implement a passive management plan for the popular camping area. While there were no fees to use the area, there were also no services.
Wendy Sailors, Development Specialist with Alaska State Parks, says that the commercial operator lined up to run the Lake Louise Recreation Area pulled out for a number of different reasons.
“We were left pretty much in early May without someone to manage that,” Sailors said. “We saw a lot of traffic to start in the beginning at all of our parks. And then with the passive management we were hoping, and we did put some information out on our webpage and also on social media asking people to please help manage this — if we can keep it clean, then we can keep it open, basically."
Sailors says that over the past several weeks, the community around Lake Louise was seeing more trash in the area and had come together to clean it up multiple times.
“But over the course of the Fourth of July weekend it just was a lot worse than before,” Sailors said. “Really what it came down to is we have to be respectful to communities that we’re in, and if it’s going to cause more issues for them then we cannot expect them to be the ones that are cleaning that up on a regular basis.”
Sailors says the State Parks are working to put a request for proposal to find a new contractor to run the campsite, and once one is found, it could reopen this summer.
“If there’s anybody that’s interested, we would love to hear from them. We would even go with the option of a campground host until we get that RFP completed, because it is an up to six week process, and it’s not even out yet,” Sailors said.
While the closure of the Lake Louise State Recreation Area closes the campground and state boat launch, there are other public and privately owned lake access and lodging opportunities in the area, including a Matanuska-Susitna Borough owned boat launch at the end of Lake Louise Road across from Lake Dinty.