By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Though a management plan for the Lake Earl wildlife area is up to Fish and Game, about half of the land there (6,000 acres) is owned by a different agency altogether which has its own plans for change.

California State Parks makes the rules for the section north of the lake and Kellogg Road. Local Supervising Ranger Ronald Jones said the rules are about to get more strict.

Our plan is more preservation and appreciation, similar to Jed Smith Park, Jones said.

Although the change will take a year or two to complete, the transition will be from what is designated as a project to an actual state park.

That means it will have a different set of rules and State Parks has nearly the highest designation, said Jones.

Hunting for water fowl is allowed there now. It wont be if the project area is redesignated as a state park, according to Jones.

But, like the process Fish and Game is taking to form its plan, the State Parks Department will hold several public hearings on the issue before a change is made.

Well take input from the public to decide whether to put in more roads or trails or a horse park, Jones said.

Whatever State Parks decides, Fish and Games management plan for the lake and land south of it will likely affect the area owned by the parks.

How high Lake Earl is allowed to rise before breaching the sandbar between it and the ocean is a decision central to a new plan.

Lake Earl is actually a fluctuating estuary, meaning its water levels would flood and drain periodically as the lake breaks the naturally forming sandbar.

Del Norte County farmers used to break the bar themselves to keep the lake from filling above four feet. Descendants of those farmers say any deeper and their pasture lands would be too wet to use. They say they would like the lake to stay at four feet even now.

Fish and Game, however, has the goal of maximizing habitat for as much wildlife as possible without serious negative effects on adjacent property owners.

For the State Parks land north of Lake Earl, trails and recreational activities could be made consistent with those of Fish and Games plan when it is completed by the end of 2002.