The State of Alaska filed a lawsuit today in State Superior Court asking that the court affirm the existence of public access easements on Campbell Lake. The lawsuit comes more than four years after the Landmine’s special feature, “The bizarre story of Campbell Lake, the private lake that isn’t.”
Nearly three months after the publication of the Landmine’s special feature, the State of Alaska and Municipality of Anchorage issued a joint statement affirming that Campbell Lake is a public lake. The statement also claimed that members of the public could access the lake via two section line easements that cross private property. However, in the years since the joint statement was issued, members of the public have been subjected to harassment from Campbell Lake homeowners and have been discouraged from using the easements to access the lake.
In March, the House Finance Committee appropriated $10,000 for marked access and signage on the public access easements. But the proposal died in the State Senate. The Anchorage Assembly also voted to appropriate money for marked access. But then, two residents filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the public access easements did not exist. The state filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit, which will be heard next week.
By filing the new lawsuit today, the state may be attempting to bolster its argument that the validity of state section line easements is a state, rather than federal, matter.
In a press release today from the Department of Law, Attorney General Treg Taylor said, “During recent years the status of Campbell Lake as public water and access to it have caused uncertainty among lakefront property owners and the public. The State is filing this litigation in an attempt to resolve the matter and provide certainty to all affected interests. The objective would be to establish the existence of the easement so we can negotiate a route that minimizes adverse impacts on property owners, yet allows access to a public waterbody.”
Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle said, “Having the court confirm the validity of the easement will be a positive first step. We intend to vigorously protect Alaskans’ right to access public waters. When the two landowners filed in federal court they were, in effect, trying to overturn decades of established section line easements in Alaska, with potential implications for access to public lands and waters across the state. The Departments of Law and Natural Resources look forward to defending our position that the section line easement at Campbell Lake is valid. We remain open to working with the plaintiffs and others, as we have tried in the past, on negotiating an alternative route for the easement to ensure Campbell Lake’s recreation opportunities are available to all.”
The state’s lawsuit can be viewed here.