National Park Service Restoring Parts of Denali National Park With $25 Million in Funding

by TK Sanders
(Photo by: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Denali National Park will receive at least $25 million in bipartisan funding in order to bolster infrastructure affected by the surrounding natural habitat. The National Park Service (NPS) will begin construction of the infrastructure improvements this summer on an accelerated timeline.

The NPS promises that the construction will not affect park visitors’ views of wildlife or Denali; nor will it affect any hiking or camping. The various projects will take approximately two years to complete, according to estimates.

“Denali is ready for visitors in 2022. We will continue to work with our neighbors, inholders and partners to ensure an unforgettable Denali experience for visitors throughout the construction phase,” acting Denali National Park Superintendent Brooke Merrell said.

Park officials want to build a bridge near the Pretty Rocks Landslide portion of Denali Park Road. Officials plan to keep the main road open up until mile-marker 43 while construction is underway. The bridge means to span a slow-moving rock glacier that has accelerated in recent years beyond the capacity of the park to maintain a safe road surface. Officials had to close the road in August 2021 as a result of the unsafe conditions.

The project will also address several other geologic hazards that threaten public safety, like rock faces and unstable ground. All told, the road spans 92 miles across Denali National Park.

Studies and surveys of the Denali National Park infrastructure situation are available to the public

The funding came as a result of an Environmental Assessment by the NPS in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. The two federal bodies used the study to examine all possible alternatives and environmental impacts of such a massive project. After consultation with Native tribes, ANCSA Corporations, and the State Historic Preservation Office, as well as a review of stakeholder testimony and public commentary, the NPS selected the construction alternative.

The NPS Alaska Regional Director approved the motion on March 10, 2022; and filed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) brief with the NPS available for public use. According to the brief, the NPS is “proposing improvements to the Park Road in the Polychrome Area to address several geologic hazards, including the Pretty Rocks Landslide, that are jeopardizing public safety and infrastructure.”

As part of their assessment, the NPS specifically outlined their current problems within the Denali National Park system.

“At mile 45.4, the road traverses a precipitous slope high on the side of Polychrome Mountain. There, the Pretty Rocks landslide is displacing approximately 300 linear feet of the road. The Landslide is one of several geologic hazards in the area that threaten the integrity of the Denali Park Road.

Monitoring data indicates that this area’s rate of movement has increased dramatically in recent years. Therefore, current maintenance efforts are not sustainable in the face of continued and accelerating movement. Left unaddressed, road access to the western half of the Park Road and popular visitor destinations and facilities including Toklat Road Camp, the Eielson Visitor Center, Wonder Lake, and businesses in the Kantishna area would be eliminated, indefinitely.”