KTUU Q&A on the new Denali National Park vehicle management plan
Watch KTUU-TV’s full, one-hour program, “Denali: A Delicate Balance,” July 18th on Channel 2 at 7pmAST. Steve MacDonald will host the one-hour program LIVE from inside Denali National Park. You can also join the online conversation via Twitter at #denalibalance or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Ch2KTUU.
Denali National Park officials have spent nearly four years studying the effectiveness of the park’s overall vehicle management plan, and as a result, changes are expected to be announced in the coming months.
The new management plan is a delicate “balancing act” that seeks to address an increased demand for public access to the treasured National Park, while also maintaining and preserving its natural resources so that they remain “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations,” as outlined in the original 1916 Mission Statement of the National Park Service.
As part of KTUU-TV’s upcoming one-hour in-depth special, “Denali: A Delicate Balance,” Channel 2’s Steve MacDonald spoke with Denali National Park Superintendent, Paul Anderson, regarding the need for a new plan and the changes visitors can expect in the future.
Excerpts from Steve MacDonald's interview follow:
Question: (Steve MacDonald, KTUU) “What are the reasons for the new management plan?”
Answer: (Paul Anderson) “There's been a fair amount of pressure from increasing visitation over the years in the park, and about mid-2000 we started to approach the limit set for traffic on the road set in 1986. The question came up, “Is that limit really a valid limit for vehicle traffic on the park road?” We agreed with the various interest groups that we should take another closer look at the science to see whether or not that limit was the proper limit for vehicles. We spent about four years doing research on the park road to better understand the effects of traffic on wildlife and the visitor experience, and today we have a lot better information on which to base a decision about the capacity of the road.”
KTUU: “Will visitors see major changes after the plan goes into effect?”
Anderson: “The answer is after all the effort there will be some changes in capacity, but as far as a visitor to Denali, will they see much of a difference from what it is today? Probably not. Things will be very much the same. There will be a shuttle bus system. There will be a tour system.”
KTUU: “Was there a need to do this now?”
Anderson: “As the visitor demand increases and the request for various kinds of use for the park changes and increase, it presents challenges to the managers to protect the resources and visitor use. To date, I think [we’ve done] quite well at balancing those two competing demands in trying to find ways that we can accommodate additional visitor access to the park, both today and in the future, and still provide protection for the parks’ resources that the Park Service is capable of providing.”
KTUU: “Is there a danger of the park road being maxed out with vehicles?”
Anderson: “That road has a capacity. It offers an experience that is recognized as nationally significant. Is there a limit to the number of people and vehicles - and not take away from the wilderness experience or damage that resource? Yes, there is, and some day perhaps we'll reach it. We've thought a lot about it. We've been planning for it, as we speak. We've been involved in providing new facilities here in the front country of the Park. A new Visitors Center, Science Center and trails that will accommodate great use here and won't require people to drive out the park road to be able to enjoy the park.”
KTUU: “I understand there's another major project in the works designed to take visitor pressure off Denali?”
Anderson: “We've been partners with the State of Alaska and Mat-Su Borough in the south side visitors’ project near Trapper Creek. We strongly feel that that project is important to the State and Park in being able to accommodate the increasing number of visitors and provide a high quality visitor experience when they come to Denali. The south side visitor’s complex will provide everything Denali National Park does now. It'll have campgrounds, a visitor’s center and hiking trails. Right now, the state has appropriated money for the project. More money is needed to complete it. [We] wants to get all funding in place before starting work. I would imagine it’s three to five years out.”