We Have a New State Park Management Plan: What's In It?
The Department of Parks and Recreation recently released an updated management plan for Kachemak Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay Wilderness Park.
KBCS and the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park worked with hundreds of locals in the public process around this plan to try to make sure that it reflects the values of stewardship and sustainability. While not all of our suggestions were accepted, some of our comments found their way into the final plan.
Below is a summary of some of the changes, from jet skis to heliskiing. Any questions should be directed to Monica Alvarez at email@example.com.
New Park Zoning Tilts Toward More Intensive Use
As you can see at the map at the top of the blog post, large areas of the park near Tutka Bay Lagoon, China Poot/Halibut Cove and Glacier Spit are designated for recreational development. The new plan also designates all the uplands in the park as part of the "Natural Zone," when, in the past, it was all zoned as “Wilderness ” This plan lets us know that managers want and will allow more intensive uses of the park going forward:
“It is the intent of DPOR to become less reliant on state general funds and more self sufficient. Some of the options for generating additional revenue for Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Park include developing new recreation opportunities which could generate additional revenue, implementing a daily park fee or park pass, increasing fees for special park use and commercial use permits, and selling park merchandise.”
Here are the definitions and supported uses for each zone:
Recreational Zone: "The developments allowed in this zone include roads, private vehicle and public transportation routes or access, visitor and interpretive centers, park management facilities and commercial lodges or resorts. High intensity activities related to the use of these developed facilities are generally encouraged. Summer and winter off-road vehicles and other motorized recreational vehicles may be allowed in this zone.”
Natural Zone: “Allowable developments include–but are not limited to–backcountry shelters, public-use cabins, high standard hiking and bicycle trails (paved or gravel), bridges and roads where necessary to access development zones and as provided for in an approved management plan. Snowmobiles may be allowed in this zone-within specifically designated areas-depending on resource sensitivities and potential conflicts with other park uses. Other private, motorized off-road vehicle use is generally prohibited within this zone.”
Wilderness Zone: “A wilderness zone should have no man-made conveniences within its boundaries except for the most primitive of trails with minimum trail maintenance, bridges, and signing.”
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, aka drones
By permit only in Natural Zone only (includes the waters of the park).
“May be authorized under 11 AAC 18.010 if the UAV weighs less than 55 lbs., is flown within visual line of sight, below 400 feet above ground level, at speeds of not more than 100 mph, during daylight, is not flown above people, and is not used to harass or otherwise come within 500’ of wildlife.”
People should know that they need a permit before they use drones.
Drones are not allowed in Grewink, Tutka Bay Lagoon and China Poot/ Halibut Cove Lagoon—the “Recreational Zones.”
Drones are not allowed in most of the Kachemak Bay Wilderness Park.
A higher resolution map of the areas closed to drones would be helpful, but err on the side of caution.
By permit in Natural and Wilderness Zones only.
Bear baiting must be consistent with ADF&G regulations, requires registration with ADF&G and requires an authorization from DPOR under 11 AAC 18.010.
ADF&G regs on bear baiting include the following requirements:
- Anyone wanting to register a bait station in any GMU in Alaska must have successfully completed an ADF&G approved bear baiting clinic and be at least 18 years old.
- A bait station may not be established within one-quarter mile from publicly maintained roads, trails, or the Alaska Railroad. These include a quarter-mile restriction applied to the shorelines of numerous major rivers and tributaries in Units 7, 14, and 15.
- You may not set up a bait station within one mile from a house or other permanent dwelling, a developed campground, or other developed recreational area.
- A bear baiting registrant must clean up each bear bait station when done for the season, and not later than the close of the season itself.
Hunting and Trapping
Compatible in all zones.
“Subject to ADF&G regulations. Discharge of a weapon (including firearms and bow & arrow) is prohibited within 1/4 mile of a developed facility (i.e. a public use cabin, campground, ranger or maintenance station, or parking lot).”
Note there is no limit for hunting or trapping around the trails or in the recreational zones. We had recommended that there should be no trapping or discharge of firearms within 1/2 mile of any trail, but that recommendation was not accepted, and we are pretty disappointed. It is pretty wild that trapping will be allowed in the Recreational Zones. Other areas have restrictions, and it is not clear why we couldn't get them here.
Be on the look-out and wear orange when you're out and about during spring and fall bear hunts.
“Use of bicycles is currently restricted to existing roads and parking areas under 11 AAC 12.020. DPOR may allow use of bicycles on certain trails through special use permits or restricted openings to assess the level of use and impact on park resources. These authorizations may occur on certain trails that are recommended to be developed or re-developed as a sustainable trail designed for bicycle use. A general opening of certain trails to bicycle use would require a unit specific regulation.”
Recreational and Natural Zones.
“May be authorized under 11 AAC 18.010 in other areas and trails designated for use until a regulation is promulgated to allow use on designated trails designed to accommodate bicycles without authorization.” This means cyclists need to get a permit before they ride.
“May be authorized under 11 AAC 18.010 subject to conditions that mitigate use conflicts and protect park resources.” This means cyclists need to get a permit before they ride.
Note that bicycles are not allowed on beaches. You need a permit to use them anywhere else. Basically their position here is that trails weren’t designed for bikes and they want to avoid conflict with hikers. The Park may be intending to build some roads at some point that would allow bicycle use without a permit.
“DPOR may consider a change to the regulation prohibiting PWC use in state park waters, given the regulation change by ADF&G in 2021 allowing use in the KBCHA. PWC use may be authorized under 11 AAC 18.010 until a regulation allowing use is promulgated.”
KBCS, Cook Inletkeeper, the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park and the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition are currently (February 2023) in a lawsuit challenging ADF&G's change in jet ski regulations in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area. The State Park is waiting for the results of this lawsuit, but they seem to be saying that they will go with whichever direction Fish and Game go. We will all have to wait and see how that lawsuit goes, and then go from there.
Off Road Vehicles (Including Snow Machines)
Compatible in the Recreational and Natural Zones. Allowed without authorization only on existing roads and parking areas.
Roads are full-blow DOT roads, which do not exist in the park, so they will only be allowed by permit in most of the park, but it is not clear under what circumstances a permit would be written. Grewingk and the HEA access cannot be used.
The plan has zoned much of the park as “Recreational,” and so it will now be allowed to build roads where 4x4, snow-machines—and even highway vehicles—could drive.
Boat Anchoring and Mooring
Incompatible in Recreational Zone.
This is bit confusing, because all the waters of the Park are zoned Natural. Boats can anchor up in all waters of the park. The Park is indicating that they are not willing to allow construction of moorage in the new Recreational Zones in Halibut Cove, China Poot, Tutka Bay Lagoon or Grewingk.
“All docks will be constructed of non-polluting materials and any foam floatation used must be commercially encapsulated.” This is a step-up from the old plan that had no material specifications, and encapsulated foam degrades much more slowly than previously allowed types of foam. This new rule will allow citizens a bit more time to collect up foam from broken up docks before it degrades into tiny pieces.
In our comments on the draft plan, KBCS suggested that in addition to these requirements, private dock owners should also be required to remove their old and degraded docks, and should be heavily fined if their docks break up in the bay, since 11 AAC 12.050 prohibits people from bringing refuse or waste into the park. This suggestion was not accepted.
“May be authorized under 11 AAC 18 from May 1 to October 15 at the designated landing area on Grewingk Glacier…The use of helicopters in other areas may be authorized under 11 AAC 18 only for park management purposes, research, or in support of other authorized activities”
Helisking is not an authorized activity. This was something we fought hard for to protect Mountain Goat kidding areas in the spring.
They have issued no restrictions on numbers per day or week for helicopter visits to Grewingk, which is the only authorized place of the public to use helicopters. Other useless that could be allowed with a permit include research, HEA access, and possibly film or education projects.
Aquaculture and Mariculture
Incompatible. No change on this.
“Action taken to increase fishery stocks above historical levels within park units such as building fish passages, artificially incubating or stocking fish in streams and lakes, and fertilizing lakes. Use may be authorized only after peer-reviewed research to ensure there will be no detrimental impact on other resident species.”
We believe that the impacts of CIAA’s fertilization of China Poot Lake aka Leisure Lake have not been sufficiently studied, and we would like to see the park require more research on impacts in their permit to CIAA, based on this guidance.
Fisheries Enhancement – Hatchery
“The state believes the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery operations are incompatible within KBSP because it likely constitutes an impermissible disposal of state park lands, it is incompatible with the Legislature’s mandate that KBSP be managed as a scenic park, and ADNR lacked authority to enter into an ILMA for ADF&G to manage KBSP lands and waters for this purpose."
The new language says nothing about timeline for phase-out, as in Draft Plan. DPOR is in a tricky spot: they have said that this activity is incompatible, but they are still implicitly sanctioning it, because they have not dissolved their land agreement with ADF&G—the IMLA—that allows the hatchery to function.
There are a few folks on the CIAA board who are still hoping that the Legislature will just cut the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery out of the State Park. KBCS will continue to fight any effort to cut up our state park for this failing hatchery. The hatchery is a total financial disaster and provides negligible benefit to the commercial fleet—at great cost to the rest of us.
“To reduce the spread of invasive plants, horses should be fed weed-free hay.”
This is the only formal rule in the plan designed to restrict the spread of invasive species in the park. That being said, the plan states that the vectors of greatest concern for invasive spread into Kachemak Bay State Park are “float planes, horse riding, domestic llamas, inholders’ landscaping, HEA and CIAA heavy equipment, and other public uses. They park has no specific rules other than the horse hay for restricting spread of invasive species.” Rather than outline specific restrictions, the plan says, “public outreach and education are paramount for early detection. Those accessing remote areas of the parks for any purpose should exercise caution and take preventative measures to prevent invasive spread. Examples of strategies to prevent invasives include:
• Commercial float plane operators requiring clients to clean footwear before entering
• Only allowing livestock fed on weed free feed access to the parks;
• Not authorizing park access for float planes from a home port lake that has an
• Posting images of the most concerning invasives at common vector access points.”