SUTTON, Alaska (KTUU) – About two miles in from the town center of Sutton is the Jonesville Public Use Area. It’s a beautiful site — surrounded by lakes and mountains — where people can camp and recreate freely. However, the unregulated state land has been a growing concern for people living in the area and some of its users.
Sutton Community Council member, Brian Largent, said shooting guns in the area has gotten out of hand in recent years.
“Shooting is our biggest issue,” Largent stated. “People love to shoot up here, there’s a lot of space, there’s some good spots for it.”
The popular recreation area, and former coal mine located within Matanuska Valley Moose Range, came under scrutiny after an accidental shooting in 2016 led to the death of a man attempting to capture video on his phone.
“We’ve had people’s houses shot by bullets,” Largent said.
The location was designated for public use by the Alaska Legislature in 2018. Since then, attempts have been made by the Sutton Community Council to implement a management plan, going so far as to ask the state to shut the area down completely.
“They made some attempts, but ultimately said they weren’t physically able to do that because it is a big area,” Largent said.
Now, after years of asking the state to intervene, good news is on the horizon for supporters of Jonesville land regulation. The state has secured funding for a management plan for the area and put out a Request For Proposal for Jonesville, as well as the moose range, at the end of June.
Program coordinator for the Alaska Division of Natural Resources Don Perrin said Thursday that it was always the state’s intention to regulate the public use area in Jonesville. However, funding and resources were not available until now.
“We knew we had a management plan to pursue,” Perrin said.
Perrin said the division is hopeful to have a plan ready for signature by June of 2023, but warned that a number of things could extend that timeline. In the meantime, the community of Sutton is relieved that the process has at least started.
“I’m really grateful,” Largent admitted. “And I’m hopeful that the team that’s going to be finally writing it will work with us and we’ll work with them and get a plan that everybody’s happy with.”
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