Public invited to touch upon state’s outside recreation plan

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Alaskans have one week left to comment on the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ statewide recovery plan, a twice-a-decade exercise that helps determine what state parks money will be spent on for years to come.

The department produces a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan every five years as a detailed overview of how and where Alaskans are enjoying recreation on public lands across the state.

This 2023-2027 plan, now in draft form, is intended to guide decision-making on how users plan to manage and spend money on public spaces for recreational users. It will eventually help determine where $37 million in federal funding ends up. Each state puts together a similar recovery plan.

“It’s how we set priorities for the future,” said Ricky Gease, director of Alaska State Parks.

Among other things, this year’s plan includes “supporting the outdoor recreation lifestyle in Alaska,” using outdoor recreation as an engine of economic growth and as a way to attract workers and businesses to the state.

This year, for the first time, the state has new technology that shows with new precision where and how people use Alaska’s state parks. New GIS and anonymized cellphone data enable “heat maps” to show exactly which parks and areas are being used the most — insights the department has never seen in this level of detail, Gease said.

Some of the biggest takeaways:

• The most commonly used areas are state public lands, such as Chugach State Park and the Kenai River Special Recreation Area, and non-state managed lands, such as national parks

• Truly more people are using Alaska’s public lands, a dramatic increase that began during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and has not abated.

• Alaskans most often have recreation close to home, in neighborhood parks, greenbelts, and open spaces.

• Locals say they want more public cabins, campgrounds, better trailhead parking and access to fishing.

Alaskans can read all 200 pages of the plan online and submit comments using a form on the website. Comments are open until November 28th.