By Joseph Robertia
With the ever-growing popularity of the Kasilof River personal-use fisheries, the beach is becoming increasingly recognized as an area being loved to death.
The crowds that come to fish, camp and recreate in the summer overtax the suitable parking and camping areas, and seasonal garbage and toilet facilities. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has incrementally increased services in recent years — and local efforts resulted in a fence to protect a stretch of sensitive sand dunes and beach grass on the south beach — but not enough to stem the tide of damages resulting from the flood of people each summer.
The department is stepping up its efforts on the north beach with a proposal to create a paved parking lot that can accommodate 315 vehicles, a two-way, 40-foot-wide beach access road and developed areas for seasonal Dumpsters and toilets. A 45-day public comment period began Oct. 15 and closes Nov. 30 on the site concept plan for the North Side Improvement Project planned for the Kasilof River Special Use Area.
“The issues or problems to be solved with this project include addressing degradation of sensitive coastal dunes and wetlands, unimproved parking areas, insufficient access for emergency and sanitation services and trespass onto private property,” Clark Cox, the department’s regional manager, stated by email.
So far the plan doesn’t propose instituting user fees, such as for parking or camping.
“User fees are not being proposed at this time. In order to have the ability to collect user fees for the Kasilof River Special Use Area during the personal-use fisheries at some point in the future, the department would be required to adopt a regulation through a public process,” Cox stated.
Participation in the personal-use fishery overall and at the Kasilof, in particular, has skyrocketed. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in the first year of the fishery, 1996, 14,575 permits were issued to Alaskans, and dip-netters participated on 1,300 “household days” at the Kasilof. A household day is fishing by one or more household member in a 24-hour period. For comparison, the Kenai River experienced 10,503 household days fished the same year.