ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Removing beetle-infested spruce trees at state campgrounds in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to keep them from falling and harming campers could cost more than $1 million, according to state parks officials.
Area parks superintendent Stuart Leidner said Division of Forestry staff made an initial estimate of $1.2 million for forestry crews to use hand tools to remove the hazardous trees around campgrounds and cabins, KTVA-TV reported .
Parks officials announced last week that Byers Lake Campground in Denali State Park and the South Rolly Campground in the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area would stay closed for the summer and possibly into next year for tree removal.
Leidner said it’s not safe to have people in tents or RVs near the towering trees killed by spruce bark beetles.
“If there’s a wind event or any other situation where those trees are coming down, we’re just inherently increasing the risk to the population.” Leidner said.
Each campground has more than 60 sites. Keeping them empty means an estimated loss in fees of $150,000. “Our goal is to get these open as quickly as possible,” Leidner said. “But we really do have the public safety in mind first.”
The state brought in specialists to begin taking out trees at South Rolly, which might make areas open for day use.
“We still want to allow people to get to the lake but we can’t have that ongoing camping situation just because we’re looking at 160 acres (647,500 square meters) that we need to address,” Leidner said.
The state hopes to pay for the work with U.S. Forest Service funds, which have not been secured. The state can’t allow the public to chop down trees for firewood because of liability issues, Leidner said.