Erosion washing away Ninilchik beach campsites

KENAI — Escalating erosion is eating away at river beaches around Ninilchik, wiping out shoreline campsites.

The Ninilchik State Recreation Area has been eroding for about 20 years, but a 2010 storm took out enough beachfront to force closure of the campground.

State parks officials and the Southern Kenai Peninsula State Parks Citizens Advisory Board toured the Ninilchik area and Deep Creek State Recreation Area last week, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

Advisory board deputy chair Mike Schuster said the 2010 storm wiped out 30 campsites at the Ninilchik site. The site was a critical asset, he said.

“Traditionally, as far as our parks in Ninilchik go, that has been identified by the community and by park users as the longest traditionally used asset of the park,” Schuster said.

The area remaining has been redesignated as daytime parking space, he said.

Deep Creek has lost about 15 campsites, with significant loss last year. Schuster said some daytime parking space has been redefined as campsites.

Plans are underway to rebuild lost beachfront at Deep Creek.

Rys Miranda, chief of design and construction for state parks, said a “perfect storm” combination of high tide and high wind caused the ocean to wash out about 15 feet of beach in September 2012. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated about $135,000 to replace the beach.

“The way the FEMA money works is (parks) can’t really improve the site, (parks) can only bring it back to pre-disaster conditions,” Miranda said.

The reconstruction is slated to begin in spring.

A rough estimate to construct rock armor at the creek to prevent further erosion came in at $4.5 million, according to Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Brent Johnson, who toured the beaches. But that might not solve the problem, he said. It might only buy some time.

Another option might be to relocate the campground facilities, Johnson said.

A study would help parks and the board to further determine options, Schuster said.

“Natural causes are eroding our beaches and are wiping out infrastructure along there,” Schuster said. “Man can only do so much to cope with what Mother Nature’s going to throw at him. And is there any common sense in spending millions of dollars to try to protect something that ultimately can’t be protected, it just can’t be overcome?”

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