The Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge has grown by 236 acres. Great Land Trust (GLT) raised the funds to purchase an inholding in the Refuge and has donated the parcel along Palmer Slough to the State of Alaska to be managed by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) as part of the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge. Great Land Trust is a non-profit founded by Alaskans for Alaskans with a mission to conserve the lands and waters essential to the quality of life and economic health of our communities.
At over 28,000 acres, the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge consists of coastal and freshwater wetlands, tidal sloughs and mudflats, lakes and streams, and upland birch forests. It is home to tens-of-thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterbirds, and is important habitat for moose in the winter months. Historically, the Knikatnu native peoples of Upper Cook Inlet lived in and around this area, and evidence of their settlements can still be found in the bluffs along the hay flats.
Today, the Refuge is a year-round destination for outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing. Its proximity to both the Mat-Su Borough and Anchorage attracts residents for bird watching, canoeing, hiking, salmon fishing, waterfowl and moose hunting. In the winter, snow machining, cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, and ice skating are popular activities on the frozen wetlands.
The acquisition of this 236-acre property helps to make the refuge a contiguous block of public lands. Joe Meehan, Special Areas Program Coordinator with the Division of Wildlife Conservation at ADF&G says, “The acquisition of this parcel and conserving its important wildlife habitat values has been a decades-long goal for the management of the Palmer Hay Flats Refuge. Not only does it make management simpler and more consistent on the landscape, it gives public users the assurance that they can recreate on the refuge without having to worry about trespassing on private lands.”
Great Land Trust has completed a number of other projects within and adjacent to the Refuge. In 2005, GLT facilitated the purchase of 160 acres to be added to the Refuge, which eventually became the Rabbit Slough access point for the Palmer Hay Flats. In 2014, GLT purchased nearly 1,000 acres along the northern border of the Refuge, creating public access to this previously
private land. That project also involved the creation of a new trailhead and a one-mile-long boardwalk along Wasilla Creek.
Funding for this project primarily came from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund. The sellers, the Beal family, also contributed to the project. They say that they always thought of the land as part of the Palmer Hay Flats Refuge, and that they are glad to see the acreage recognized for its importance to the Palmer Slough and Rabbit Slough fish and bird habitat.
The Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge can be accessed from several points. To get to the Rabbit Slough access point, take Trunk Road and exit at milepost 35.5 on the Parks Highway. Follow the highway frontage road to the access road and follow the access road to its end.
Great Land Trust is a non-profit founded by Alaskans for Alaskans whose mission is to conserve lands and waters essential to the quality of life and economic health of our communities. For more information visit our website at www.greatlandtrust.org.