As Mark Twain would say, reports of the demise of seaweed collecting at the Halibut Point State Recreation Site have been greatly exaggerated.
It turns out that gathering this much-favored garden fertilizer does not require a special use permit. Under a new policy, however, permits are required for anyone who wants to drive a vehicle into the park, for any reason.
Kevin Murphy, the State Parks’ Chief Ranger for Southeast Alaska, said the new policy was prompted by road damage in the rec area.
“It was the damage to the roadbed that kind of forced us into trying to mitigate that,” Murphy said. “And the way to mitigate that was to limit the access down there, at least have some accountability for it. That’s what has driven it all.”
Murphy said that a combination of wet spring weather and too much traffic had caused damage at the end of the roadway. Park employees were seeing six or seven trucks in the park at once, he said, many of them parked off the gravel areas designated for them.
The policy is not aimed at people gathering seaweed for gardens or compost, Murphy said. A press release issued by the State Parks’ citizens’ advisory board earlier this week said that the special use permits were required to limit the amount of seaweed collected. Murphy said that is not accurate — no permit is required to collect seaweed, as long as people walk in.
“Foot traffic, wheelbarrows, buckets, any time,” he said. “Don’t even need to call and let the specialist know. Go for it. It’s really more about vehicle access.”
Anyone who wants to drive in will need a special use permit, whether it’s to collect seaweed, to transport a grill for a picnic, or to provide access for those with disabilities.
A permit might sound daunting, Murphy said, but it’s really just a five-minute phone call to let park staff know when they need to be present to unlock the gate.
“It sounds like a highly technical long piece of paperwork,” Murphy said. “It’s really a one-page thing that has the person’s name on it so we have contact for that person, and establishes a time for us to let them in and let them out and control the access.”
Murphy said that the new policy is in fact a return to an older policy; until about four or five years ago, he said, the main gate was locked at all times.
Anyone with questions, or to get a special-use permit, should call the State Parks Sitka office, at 747-6249.