Vehicle Cap on the Way for Denali Park Road
“This is a plan we’re looking at to manage the park road for the next 20 years,” she said.
The plan dictates that tour buses will be spaced out accordingly to prevent traffic jams at wildlife and rest stops, one of the main concerns voiced by visitors in the survey the Park Service conducted.
At the peak of the visitor season between mid-June and mid-August, Fister said there are about 90 tour and shuttle buses that use the road each day.
Visitors still will be able to reserve seats on buses in advance but they might not be able to get on a bus right away if they show up at the park without a reservation, Fister said.
“They may have to wait until later in the day to get on a bus to where they want to go,” she said.
Ron Peck, president and chief operating officer for the Alaska Travel Industry Association, said most tour companies were comfortable with the new traffic plan, and praised the Park Service for listening to their suggestions about improving the bus tours.
“We’re hopeful the new plan is going to allow for some growth,” Peck said. “Ultimately, what we want to have is a good visitor experience and maintain the environmental integrity of the park.”
The Denali Citizens Council, a nonprofit group comprised of local residents dedicated to conserving the ecological and wilderness values of the park, is opposed to increasing the amount of traffic on the park road.
“We think the 160-vehicle limit is set too high, and they haven’t proved environmentally it won’t be damaging,” board member Nancy Bale said. “We don’t think they should put the limit into regulation until they do more environmental analysis.”
The DCC also opposes the proposed elimination of the camper bus, which traditionally has ferried campers and their gear to campgrounds along the park road. Under the new system, campers would have to ride on more expensive shuttle buses, which don’t have as much room for gear.
“We really feel they should retain the camper bus,” Bale said. “We want the park to be accessible to Alaskans and cheap and inexpensive for college students who come up to visit the park.”
Bale also said too much emphasis is being placed on more expensive tour buses rather than the cheaper shuttle buses.
“We are very interested in retaining the priority of the (shuttle buses,),” she said.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry at 907-459-7587.