The Nature Center has been working on solving our parking challenges since 1997. When Friends of Eagle River Nature Center took over management of the Nature Center from Chugach State Park that year, we discovered quickly that parking could be a nightmare. Staff and volunteers built an "overflow parking" area, but it was hard to reach without 4 wheel drive and difficult to maneuver. But it worked to alleviate the situation on some of our busiest days. By 2007, we were reaching out to the AK State Parks to help us find a way to add parking. Chugach State Park administrators put it on their list of needs and we all waited. We received grants to evaluate the situation and come up with ideas. Neighbors provided feedback. Money was scarce.
In 2018, AK State Parks Design & Construction finally received funding to begin planning a new parking lot. Their designers consulted with Nature Center staff to draft a plan that would help solve a few issues: 1) the need to accommodate at least 30 or more spaces; 2) year round (or nearly year round) access; 3) and a place that would move traffic and noise further from our neighbors. The final design accomplished all 3 goals. Psenak Construction started working on the new "Lower Parking Lot" this summer and completed it in August 2020. The former gravel road was paved and widened to accept 2 way traffic and 32 parking spots with plenty of room for maneuvering was built, allowing quick access to the Rodak Nature Trail for those with physical challenges. The new lot will alleviate parking hazards on Eagle River Rd and will provide extra parking during the winter months.
Many thanks to the team at AK State Parks Design & Construction, Chugach State Park administration (over the past 15 years, especially former Park Superintendent Tom Harrison), Psenak Construction, and the staff of the Nature Center who collaborated to make it all happen. It really turned out well and we hope that everyone who visits agrees. Next summer we hope to receive a grant to build a trail from the Lower Parking directly up to the Nature Center. Stay tuned!