For Immediate Release: October 28, 2019
Contact: Rick Steiner (907) 360-4503; Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Big Recreational Development for Wonder Lake Would Pave Paradise
Washington, DC — A plan for a new recreational hub in one of the most pristine parts of Denali National Park and Preserve should be sent back to the drawing board, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan includes 80 miles of trails, campgrounds, a hostel, transit system, and acres of administrative buildings.
The plan for Denali’s Wonder Lake and Kantishna Area is the brainchild of its Superintendent Don Striker and is open for public comment through October 31. It reflects Trump administration efforts to maximize recreation and commercial opportunities on federal lands.
“The aptly named Wonder Lake is often called the Crown Jewel of Denali, but this plan would tarnish this gem and significantly degrade one of the most sublime places in America’s national park system,” stated PEER Board Member Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and Denali advocate. “Wonder Lake is perfect just as it is and needs no ‘improvement.’ This plan represents the wrong direction for Denali and must be stopped.”
The PEER comments point out that the dizzying array of developments outline would –
- Disrupt wildlife in a variety of ways, including many more human-bear interactions from bikers and hikers on an extensive network of trails;
- Damage miles of already shrinking wetlands and create major new erosion; and
- Primarily benefit private lodges on nearby park inholdings.
The plan also assumes a much higher level of visitation than the current trend for Denali. PEER asserts that the plan is based on a Field of Dreams mentality that “if we build it, they will come.”
In addition, Denali already has a deferred maintenance backlog in excess of $50 million, not counting the added maintenance costs of new trails and buildings. The plan would also entail hiring more staff to operate the new facilities but identifies no source of revenue for these additional costs.
“Superintendent Striker appears to be suffering from an acute edifice complex,” remarked Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Denali already violates noise and natural sounds disturbance standards, which the plan would greatly aggravate. “This plan epitomizes a lot of what is wrong with the current National Park leadership.”