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Access changes at Boysen State Park draw fire

Dec 30, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Boysen State Park is developing a master plan that calls for new restrictions on recreation, and that plan took criticism at a public meeting this month.

Eilene Kemp, a consultant for the park, on Dec. 17 presented three alternatives for the plan, all of which were more restrictive than current use.

The first option would allow no access below the high-water mark, essentially banning camping on beaches. It also provided for no access for ice fishing except from the five existing boat launches.

Options two and three set aside beach areas on Cottonwood, Trout and Fremont bays for camping, but access below the high-water line in other areas would be prohibited. Those options and add nine access points for ice fishing, including a new boat launch at Birdseye and one at Poison Creek.

Quick complaints

Residents in the audience were not happy with any option.

"I guess I have huge concerns about saying these are the only areas you can (camp on the beach)," said Lander resident Pat Hickerson, a former Fremont County Commissioner. "If these are the only three places you can camp on the Fourth of July weekend, you're going to have a huge problem."

Audience members said campers can now set up their trailers anywhere they like on any beach, and winter anglers access the ice from wherever they want.

The Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency, owns Boysen Reservoir and is requiring the new rules, state park planner Todd Thibodeau said.

The current memorandum of understanding between the federal bureau and state park has the same rules as the first option: no beach camping and ice access only from boat launches, Kemp said.

'Not OK' with BLM

"The bureau identified there are activities going on at the reservoir that were not OK with them," Thibodeau said.

The BLM agreed reluctantly to more camping and fishing access but only if the park designated areas for those activities through a planning process, the planner said.

The second and third options reflect those efforts.

"Did you approach the bureau about open access?" resident Roger Bower asked. "They put up with it for 50 years. Why do they care today?"

The Bureau of Reclamation "made it very clear" that it did not want the state park to allow users to camp and access the ice anywhere they wanted, Thibodeau replied.

With that limit in mind, he asked the audience for suggestions about adjustments to proposed access areas.

"Where are the areas where you say, 'Wow, you've totally missed it, we need to have access to the ice from this location'?" he asked.

Hickerson suggested designating areas as off limits to camping or other activities rather than trying to contain recreation in certain areas. He thought a system of preserved areas would be easier to manage.

Bower also criticized the feasibility of the second and third alternatives, saying the park does not keep up maintenance on the facilities it already has.

"Where's the budget coming from to do all this enforcement?" he asked.

Different options

The second and third options would add campsites above the water line and other recreational facilities.

The second option would add 104 recreational vehicle sites to the 182 existing, 49 tent sites to the 78 current ones, 10 restrooms to the 34 there now, and four group sites to the three now in place.

Option three adds 145 recreational vehicle sites, 68 tent sites, 13 restrooms and seven group campsites.

A hiking and cycling path is part of the second and third options as well. It would run for 4-6 miles from near the north edge of the park, east of U.S. Highway 20 to the Boysen State Park Headquarters.

Both the second and third options include building an off-road vehicle trail from Shoshoni to near the Tamarask campground.

Hickerson suggested connecting the ATV trail to the Rails to Trails path, which runs from Riverton to Shoshoni.

Members of the public can comment on the three options until Jan. 31 by sending an e-mail to boyseninfo@dhmdesign.com. More information is available at boysenstateparkmasterplan.com, and residents can leave comments on a forum on the website as well.

The state parks working with its contractor will then update the master plan based on input received.

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Boysen State Park