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Public input sought on plan to preserve islands

Ranger: No immediate changes slated for state marine park

Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

When Jim King's three kids were growing up in Juneau, he and his wife, Mary Lou, would take the family fishing on their 16-foot Lund, stopping frequently at islands along Lynn Canal.

The family would picnic or camp, and sometimes just stretch their legs on sandy beaches dotting the islands. They knew all the best spots, King said.

That was back in the 1960s.

At the time, in 1968, the city didn't yet have a department dedicated to parks and recreation, but it did have an advisory committee. King was on it, and he wrote the section of a plan that suggested some of those islands in Lynn Canal be preserved for recreation.

The city plan was approved in 1970, and 38 years later, 14 of the islands are being preserved under the Channel Islands State Marine Park.

The Alaska Legislature last year established the park under the state marine parks system, selecting the islands from the federal government under a provision in the Statehood Act.

The islands had been under the purview of the U.S. Forest Service.

The state means to preserve them for recreation. No immediate changes are planned, said Joel Telford, Southeast area chief ranger for the state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

The division is taking public comments at a Wednesday meeting on a draft management plan, which says protecting the islands' scenic, recreational and habitat values is the main management objective.

"The input we got is that people don't want to see a lot of regulations or red tape in terms of using the islands," Telford said.

The park is designated for low to moderate impact, to remain relatively undeveloped and provide opportunities for natural outdoor experiences.

The plan calls for outhouses and fire rings in popular camping areas, interpretive signs at nearby harbors to encourage more visitation, and lists several locations for public use cabins, mooring buoys and a few trails.

Hunting and commercial operations such as boat tours will be allowed, although the plan says limits on the number of permits should be established if commercial use negatively impacts other users.

King supports the management plan to help define future opportunities at the islands. As director of the state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, his son, James King, is now in charge of them.

King Sr. is still on the city's parks and recreation advisory committee. He's also a longtime member of the Alaska State Parks Citizen Advisory Board.

Many of the recreation ideas penciled out for Juneau's future in 1970 came to fruition. The suggestion for a Fish Creek ski area became Eaglecrest, and an idea for Juneau Tidelands Park became a state refuge.

King said there is more potential to develop the Lynn Canal islands for recreation, such as a ferry between them that would improve access.

"But I don't make any recommendation in that regard," he said. "That's for your generation to decide."

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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