As part of National Park Week this April, the National Park Service is celebrating "Transportation Tuesday" by remembering the role Alaska's national parks have played in developing transportation around the state. 

"From the Transcontinental Railroad back in the old West days, to the canals in the 18th century that opened America up and brought people west, national parks really tell that story," said Peter Christian, a public affairs officer for the National Park Service's Alaska Region. 

According to Christian, Denali National Park helped make the case for creating the Parks Highway in Alaska.

"The Parks Highway that connects Anchorage to Fairbanks, in reality, is not only a story about connecting the two biggest cities in Alaska," Christian said. "It was also a way to provide for visitor and tourist access to a national park, without having to go all the way around the Glenn Highway and then back across the Denali Highway."

With more than a dozen parks and preserves around Alaska, national parks have become an economic driver in the state — attracting tourists from around the world every year. 

In 2017, Alaska's National Parks received close to 2.8 million recreational visits, which equated to about $1.3 billion in spending and provided for nearly 19,000 jobs. Christian says those visits hit a record high of more than 2.9 million last year, part of an upward trend.

"So, national parks and tourism to those parks really do affect our state economy," Christian said. 

As part of National Park Week, all park entry fees are waived through Sunday, April 28.

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