BACKYARD BEACH: New kayak rental business among the attractions at Mirror Lake

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 14:03
  • AK Paddlesports owner Chris Putman poses for a photo at his kayak, canoe and paddleboard rental business alongside Mirror Lake in Chugiak on Friday, June 14, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • A pair of kayakers on Mirror Lake in Chugiak on Friday, June 14, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Elias Hansen smiles as he kayaks in Mirror Lake on Friday, June 14, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

It’s cool-off season at Mirror Lake in Chugiak, where hundreds of people have been flocking to beat the heat alongside the area’s top choice for summer run in the sun.

“During the summer we try to come out here once a week,” said Chugiak’s Sarah Hansen as she watched her son, Elias, kayak on the lake, which is located at 23051 Old Glenn Highway, just off the Mirror Lake exit.

When the sun shines and temperatures rise — as they did earlier this week — the sandy beach, pavillion area and volleyball courts become packed with huge crowds of children and adults out enjoying the municipal park, which is maintained by the Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation Department. There’s also a single-track mountain bike trail system that can be accessed at the park.

Hansen said the lake is a perfect summertime destination because it’s a great place to let the kids play in a family friendly environment.

“It’s super close, it’s convenient and the kids can’t go anywhere — just put a life jacket on them and we enjoy the scenery,” Hansen said.

New business opens lakeside

Although Hansen brought her own kayak to the lake, many people don’t have their own watercraft. That’s no longer a problem for folks wanting to get out on the water thanks to a lakeside paddle sport rental concession that opened earlier this month.

Lifelong area resident Chris Putman said he started AK Paddlesports after he realized he and his family had accumulated a large number of recreational items through their own kayaking excursions.

“We kayak a lot on our own, so we had this shed full of ocean kayaks and lake kayaks,” said Putman, a physical education teacher at Susitna Elementary. “So I thought instead of them just sitting most of the time, why not just see if people are interested in renting them?”

Putman started the process of launching his rental business last summer by researching insurance companies and approaching the municipality about a permit. By the spring, he had insurance, a state business license and a permit from the local parks department. He opened the rental business the first week of June and immediately realized he was going to need a bigger boat inventory.

“As the summer has progressed we’ve added inventory because this has become a lot more popular than I thought it would be,” he said.

Putman rents kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards at the rental business, which is located at the edge of the Mirror Lake parking area. He also has life jackets available for anyone who needs one. He rents equipment by the hour, with kayaks and paddleboards $10 per hour and double kayaks and canoes $15 per hour. He also rents by the day, week or month.

“Everyone is like, ‘This is long overdue,’” he said.

Putman said hours vary for the lakeside concession, but he’s planning to be there most days by midday — though he said he sometimes takes Wednesdays off. People can contact him directly to make reservations through his website (akpaddlesports.com) or Facebook page.

Putman said he’s been a bit surprised both by how popular the business has been so quickly as well as the large crowds he’s seen at Mirror Lake.

“Even living out here I didn’t realize how popular it was during the week,” he said.

Parking at Mirror Lake Park is free, though the lot does get extremely crowded on weekends. To reach the area, take the Glenn Highway 9 miles north from Eagle River, then use the Mirror Lake exit to access the park.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274

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