Local group will manage state park facilities around Valdez area
Move comes after state budget cuts threatened to shutter popular sites
Valdez Star photo
Worththington Glacier is one of five state-owned recreational areas that will come under the stewardship of Levitation 49, a group dedicated to improving recreational opportunities in and around Valdez.
A local recreation group will operate five popular state-owned recreational sites in the Valdez area after a round of budget cuts threatened to shutter the popular recreational spots.
Levitation 49 announced last week that it has been awarded permits to operate the Worthington Glacier site, Blueberry Lake campground, the Shoup Bay Trail, three cabins at Shoup Bay State Marine Park and the Mineral Creek State Recreation Site, sometimes known locally as Kiter Point.
The agreement begins June 15 according to Lee Hart, cofounder and president????? Of the levitation 49.
That's the scheduled effective date," she said in an interview last Friday, and noted the group, at that time, was awaiting confirmation of insurance. "Once we have that we're good."
Levitation 49, which bills itself as a non-profit sports commission, has been highly active in promoting outdoor sporting events in Valdez and surrounding areas since it was founded last year by Hart and Nick Weicht. It has since enjoyed financial backing by the City of Valdez, has a board of directors and has hosted a number of Valdez-based events.
Levitation 49 gained the state permits after it submitted a community-based response to a request for proposals to manage and maintain all five State Park units in the area.
"The two-year permit, slated to take effect June 15, is renewable for up to five more years for a total of seven years," the group said in a press release Friday.
Hart says that under the proposal, Levitation 49 will use earnings from camping fees from the Blueberry Lake campground and rental income from the three Shoup Bay cabins to maintain and improve all five recreational sites.
Much of the non-revenue generating sites, such as the popular Worthington Glacier, have been rapidly deteriorating since the park ranger once assigned to Valdez was transferred last year.
The current plan relies heavily on volunteer efforts.
"The person who is the camp ground host for Blueberry it's also going to be in charge of taking care of Worthington," Hart said, and the group will be spending a lot of time behind the scenes looking at how the system works before it can say with any certaintly how revenues will be allocated for maintenance or improvements.
Weicht himself has spent countless hours clearing brush on the Shoup trail and he reported Monday that it is clear all the way to Gold Creek - but the rest of the much-needed clearing will not be completed this year. The group has been holding monthly volunteer trail days - the next one is slated for Saturday, July 9 - but also needs assistance in keeping the cleared portion of the Shoup trail cleared.
"We've been concerned because those are, like if you look at Shoup from the water, Worthington and Blueberry from land, those are the gateways to Valdez," Hart said. "So it would be terrible to have them closed or in disrepair and stuff. So we felt like a community-based solution was really answer."
Hart said the independent contractors and core volunteers involved with the group will have the best interest of Valdez at heart and because they already live here year round.
Valdez Star photo
Blueberry Lake campground on Thompson Pass is a state-owned park that has seen little attention from its owners and has largely been maintained - and improved - by volunteer efforts.
"It does keep money here and keeps money circulating in the community," she said, though the revenues will not likely be enough to pay big salaries. "Nobody's going to get rich quick here."
Other work has also been done voluntarily, most notably at Worthington Glacier.
"The bathrooms were being used in the off season," she said, but had not been maintained. "The bathrooms were in atrocious condition, that's just not a good welcome to Valdez."
Hart says reservations for the Blueberry Campsite and the Shoup Bay cabins can be made on the state's website.
Anyone who can donate time or other resources to the state park projects or any other Levitation 49 events can contact them through their website, Levitation49.org or on Facebook.