Palmer — A popular recreation area reclaimed from years of illegal dumping and unregulated target shooting is once again under attack by vandals. Reflections Lake, off the Glenn Highway between Anchorage and Palmer in the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, has seen a recent spike in shot-up informational signs, damaged restroom doors, and illegally dumped trash that includes used hypodermic needles and household garbage.

Reflections Lake used to be called the “Rambo Rest Stop,” known for garbage dumping, vehicle burning and target shooting. That all changed in 2004 when the local refuge community, including hunters, anglers, birdwatchers and other refuge users, organized a refuge support group called Alaskans for Palmer Hay Flats and partnered with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to transform Reflections Lake into a family-friendly refuge site.

Improvements today include restrooms, kiosks, interpretive and educational panels, an educational pavilion, a one-mile loop trail with boardwalks and bridge, and a wildlife viewing tower. The department stocks Reflections Lake with rainbow trout and it has become an ideal place for children and those with mobility challenges to enjoy sport fishing. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 wildlife viewers, anglers, hikers, and canoeists now visit Reflections Lake each year.

“We can’t let a few individuals destroy our public recreational areas,” said Joe Meehan, the department’s Lands and Refuges Coordinator. “We need the public’s help to keep an eye out for us.”

Meehan encourages anyone who observes suspicious activity around Reflections Lake — or other state recreation areas — to note associated vehicle license plate numbers and call the Alaska State Troopers at (907) 352-5401.

“It’s unfortunate that our limited state funds have to be spent dealing with vandalism when that money could be better spent improving public access and managing fish and wildlife,” Meehan said.

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