Fisher folk are being blamed for a Kenai Peninsula parking lot mess that created such a social-media firestorm that state Sen. Peter Micciche, a former Republican gubernatorial prospect, Tuesday decided to ride to the rescue.
On his Facebook page, Micciche called out the Alaska Department of Natural Resources for an “absolute lack of adequate service” at the state’s Kasilof River Personal Use Area and then blasted those who fish the river for salmon.
“Alaskans (including any locals that may have contributed to this mess), the Kenai is not your dumping ground,” he wrote. “Although we appreciate your desire to come down to harvest this amazing state resource, (we) expect you to honor and respect where we live.”
Exactly who put what in the dumpsters in the parking lot north of the Kasilof is unclear. A widely shared photo of the scene shows overflowing bins and 55-gallon garbage bags stuffed with trash next to them in the lot managed by DNR’s Division of Mining, Land and Water.
Some of the bags would appear to hold more garbage than most fishermen or women would generate over a weekend, and it is not unknown for Alaskans to dispose of their home trash in state dumpsters.
But the photo fanned the passions of those Peninsula residents who view other Alaskans as invaders in a private, outdoor-recreation playground.
“I always appreciate that you grab the bull by the horns and DO what you can to address situations,” a woman identifying as Leah Jackson wrote on Micciche’s page. “Now, can we please stop all of Anchorage from coming to Kenai and doing this to our beach also?”
It was unclear which Cook Inlet beach she was referencing, but the mess in question was wrongly identified as a Kenai River parking area near the Kenai beach when it popped up Monday on the Facebook page of reality TV actor Eivin Kilcher from Homer.
Kilcher’s post was promptly shared hundreds of times though it made little to no sense. The Kenai River’s personal-use, dipnet fishery – which attracts hundreds of people per day at its height – doesn’t open until Friday.
And though sockeye salmon are now entering the Kenai, their numbers are so low that it isn’t worth fishing with rod and reel at the mouth of the river. When there are no fish to be caught, so few people camp at the mouth of the Kenai that they probably couldn’t fill a single dumpster.
The Kasilof, which had more fish, was reported to be busy over the weekend. And there were those commenting on Kilcher’s page who noted that some people there appeared to have tried to do the right thing and leave their trash bagged and near the dumpster. Micciche blasted them for their ignorance.
“If a dumpster is full and the lids no longer close, pack it out!” he wrote. “If you don’t bears, ravens and gulls will spread the trash everywhere, and it will end up on the beach or in our yards. There is a landfill on your way back north just a few miles up the Sterling Highway.”
(Editor’s note: Whether open or closed, the lids on the dumpsters in the photo wouldn’t slow even the littlest bear for a nanosecond. Closed, plastic lids will, however, deter ravens, magpies and gulls.)
The Central Peninsula Landfill is at Mile 98.5 of the Sterling, about 10 miles north of Kasilof. Micciche did not offer any dump advice for those headed south on the Sterling toward Clam Gulch, Ninilchik, Anchor Point or Homer.
He also suggested some people were releaving themselves in the worst way in the parking lot.
“Also, please use the porta-potties,” Micciche wrote. “Defecating on the beach or on the ground in the porta-potty area is unacceptable. Most of us were raised to know better and we respectfully request that you respect our natural resources, our homes and our community.”
His comments appeared to be widely and well-received by his constituents. Some examples;
A fishery limited to Alaska residents, dipnetting is exactly what it sounds like. When the salmon are running thick, Alaskans journey to the banks of the turbid Kenai and Kasilof rivers to dip the fish out of the water with nets up to five-feet in diameter.
The most visible group of Alaskans fishing for food to fill their freezers – “food security” as it is now sometimes called – dipnetters are generally unpopular among Kenai commercial fishermen who view them as competition for the resource.
Harvests are limited to 25 salmon per household with 10 additional for each extra household member. Some commercial fishermen believe the limits are too high.
Twenty to 28,000 dipnetters annually harvest an eight to a ninth as many salmon as the Inlet’s 1,100 permitted commercial fishermen. The commercial fishery mainly happens out of public views.
The dipnet fishery is very visible, and unthinking or uncaring dipnetters reguarly give their critics ample ammunition to fuel the fire that burns along the Anchorage-Kenai divide though there is no real evidence one group is any better, or worse, than the other.
It should, however, be noted the north Kenai dipnet beach does not experience the problems seen in the Kasilof photo. The City of Kenai charges a $20 fee to use that beach. The fee covers the cost of policing and maintaining the area and in most years earns the city a profit.
The dumpsters are emptied anytime they approach full, and the port-a-potties are well maintained.