BLM-Alaska Campground Icons Retire 

 Marcia Butorac, BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner with Cathy Leonard and Jim Leonard
Marcia Butorac, BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner, with Cathy Leonard, Campground Volunteer Host of 14 years, and Jim Leonard, BLM Seasonal Maintenance Worker of 11 years.
If you have visited the popular Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Sourdough Creek Campground on the banks of the Gulkana Wild and Scenic River in the past 14 years, you have probably been lucky enough to meet Volunteer Campground Host, Cathy Leonard and her husband, BLM Seasonal Maintenance Worker, Jim. Jim and Cathy started as volunteer hosts for the BLM-Alaska Glennallen Field Office (GFO) in the year 2000. Over the years, Cathy has volunteered 12,000 hours as a host and Jim volunteered over 3,000 hours before he was hired in 2003 as a BLM seasonal maintenance worker. Together they have become icons for the campground. They have greeted over 20,000 visitors each summer. Routine visitors consider Jim and Cathy as friends. In 2012, Cathy received the BLM National Volunteer “Making a Difference” Award recognizing her for her dedication and quality volunteer service to the public.

This year, Jim and Cathy declared it would be their last season here. They had achieved several goals and were ready to try something new. Ironically, this last year proved to be one of their most interesting and challenging. It started when Alaska refused to thaw in May and then temperatures suddenly jumped upwards of 70 degrees. Paxson Lake and the Gulkana River went into a record flood stage.

The campground boat launch area went completely under ice and water. A picnic table was deposited 12 feet up in a tree, interpretive panels stands were mowed over and Sourdough Creek threatened the access bridge to the campground. At Paxson Campground culverts were washed-out, preventing access to the second camping loop. It was the first time in the history of the campgrounds that they were closed for Memorial Day weekend. Jim and Cathy helped to tackle all of these challenges with their normal tenacity, despite this being their last year here.

On September 17, 2013, Cathy and Jim hung up their BLM-GFO hats and were recognized by their friends and coworkers. “It’s the end of an era,” lamented BLM GFO Outdoor Recreation Planner and Volunteer Host Coordinator, Marcia Butorac. “Your work ethic, enthusiasm, quality customer service, and commitment to excellence right to the last day cannot be duplicated.” Cathy and Jim thanked everyone and replied, “We’ll miss you guys, but it’s just time to do something different. We’ll be back,” but then quickly added, “at least to say hello.”

Cathy paddling down riverJim at Sourdough Creek Campground boat launch with large amount of icePaxson Culvert maintenance
Cathy paddles from the host campsite to campground entrance road.Jim Leonard poses with break-up ice deposited well above the Sourdough Creek Campground boat launch.Culverts washed out in Paxson Campground loop.

BLM-Alaska welcomes applications for volunteer campground hosts. Visit this BLM website to learn more: www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/fo/gdo/Volunteer_Campground_Host.html 

—Marnie Graham, Public Affairs Specialist