In August, the National Park Service released a long-awaited Draft Vehicle Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. Current management is based on a 1986 General Management Plan that established a seasonal cap of 10,512 vehicles. Leading up to the plan’s release was a multi-year Road Capacity Study that assessed the impacts of traffic volume on wildlife and visitor experience and began modeling traffic patterns. The final plan will guide vehicle use on the park road for the next 15-20 years.
The 318-page draft plan offers three alternatives. Alternative A–No Action would maintain the seasonal cap on vehicles and continue to offer the same transit and tour options for the majority of park visitors. Alternative B–Optimizing Access would maximize ridership on all tour and transit buses and combine a new economy tour onto the current transit buses. Alternative C–Maximizing Visitor Opportunities would promote a range of visitor activities. It would keep tour and transit functions distinct and offer a self-guided economy tour option on separate buses. The road between Eielson and Wonder Lake would be managed for the lowest traffic volume to promote its wilderness values. Both action alternatives would offer Teklanika River and Eielson Visitor’s Center as new premium tour destinations. Notably, commercial authorizations would be issued to retain the day tours operated by Kantishna lodges.
Under Alternatives B and C, the park would dispense with the seasonal 10,512 cap and put in place a system of adaptive management to help park managers determine the carrying capacity of the road. This experimental approach would entail collecting data from indicators–things such as night-time traffic levels and the number of vehicles in a viewshed–to inform the Superintendent’s decision about road capacity for the following year. Additionally, traffic modeling would be used to schedule bus departures and to manipulate the movement of vehicles to avoid crowding at rest stops and wildlife sightings.
Our written comments about the plan echo many of those of the conservation community. For example, adaptive management is complex and costly (each of the action alternatives come with an one million dollar annual price tag); will it adequately protect park resources? Read more at www.denalicitizens.org. As park visitors and our guests you have your own experience to bring to the discussion. Although the comment deadline for the draft plan has passed, we encourage you to follow the outcome.
Illustrations by William D. Berry and Amanda P. Devine
P.O. Box 67
Denali National Park, AK 99755
The enthusiasm of our staff is often what makes the guest experience so memorable. If you know of someone who would be a good fit for our organization, encourage him or her to view the employment pages of our website, www.campdenali.com. General staff positions are available for the 2013 season, as well as the following professional seasonal positions:
**Registered Nurses are encouraged to apply for any of our positions.
Denali is what America was; it’s the old and new, the real and ideal, the wild earth working itself into us on days stormy and calm, brutal and beautiful, unforgiving and blessed. It’s where we came from, long before agriculture, television and designer coffee, before our goofball ideas of having dominion over all living things, before our modern, paradoxical definitions of progress and prosperity, and too much stuff; it’s the lean, mean, primal place buried in our bones no matter how much we might deny it, no matter how fancy our homes, how busy our routines, how cherished our myths. Denali resides in each of us as the deep quiet, the profound moment, the childhood lost and found again, the open space and rare chance to be observant, truly alive.