FAIRBANKS — The Denali Road Lottery is going all online.
Starting this year, the National Park Service will accept only online applications for the annual lottery to determine who gets to drive into Denali National Park and Preserve after the tourist season. No mailed entries will be accepted.
The 2011 road lottery is scheduled for Sept. 16-19. The application period is June 1-30.
The lottery determines the 1,600 people — 400 per day — who win a chance to drive the road’s 92-mile length to Wonder Lake. The road is closed to traffic the rest of the tourist season at 15 Mile. It is open to 30 Mile in the month leading up to the tourist season.
Park Service spokeswoman Kris Fister in Denali Park said the move to all online applications is cheaper and greener than the old system because there is no printing, paper or mailing involved.
The majority of people who apply for the road lottery already do so online, Fister said. Since the Park Service instituted the online application process two years ago, at least 75 percent of the entries have been online.
Last year, the Park Service received 9,720 road lottery applications and 7,968 (82 percent) were submitted online while 1,752 (18 percent) were mailed.
Online application forms will be available at www.recreation.gov from 12:01 a.m. June 1 until midnight on June 30. There is a non-refundable entry fee of $10 for each application.
As part of the all online application process, lottery winners also will be billed the $25 road lottery fee when they are drawn instead of paying it when they show up at the park.
That means lottery winners will pay the $25 fee whether or not they show up to drive the road. There are always some lottery winners who don’t show up, Fister said.
“We’ve never had 400 people per day,” she said.
Automatically charging the $25 fee may provide more motivation for lottery winners to use the permits they win, Fister said.
“We want to provide the road lottery experience for up to 400 vehicles per day,” she said. “Maybe this will increase that percentage.”
The automatic $25 fee also could dissuade people who send in multiple applications — and sometimes end up with multiple permits — by asking friends or other family members to put in applications for them to ensure they get one, she said.
“Maybe people won’t be as inclined to do that if they know they’re going to be paying that $25 fee on every permit they get,” Fister said.
The $25 fee will only be refunded if the road does not open by 2 p.m. because of weather or road conditions on the day of the permit.
In addition to the $25 road lottery fee, all permit winners must pay a $20 park entrance fee.
Everyone who submits an entry will be notified by email. Lottery winners also will receive a letter confirming the day of their permit, with additional information on how to obtain the road permit and how to prepare for the drive into the park.
Names of lottery winners will be posted on the park’s website by July 15.
Permits will still be transferable in that the person awarded the permit can give it to someone else if they are not able to go. The person transferring the permit must provide the original notification and a short note explaining the transfer to the new permit holder, who must bring that documentation to the park when they check in to get their permit.
The Park Service is anticipating some complaints about the online-only application process and will return mailed applications if they receive them early enough, Fister said.
There is a chance the road lottery application fee could go down if the Park Service saves enough money, Fister said.
“This is a cost recovery program; we’re not supposed to be making money on it,” she said. “All the fees go to the road lottery, whether it’s stuff we do ahead of time or conducting the actual lottery.
“If we start collecting more money we may have to look at charging less,” Fister said.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.