AP NEWS

Park service plans to limit access to Denali road in 2020

December 19, 2019 GMT

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The National Park Service plans to limit the opening of the Denali National Park road in 2020 due to the severe collapse of a hillside along the route, officials said.

The park’s 92-mile (148 kilometer) road is expected to open only to mile 43 just before Polychrome Pass at the start of the summer season, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

A section of road called Pretty Rocks around mile 45 has become increasingly unstable, park officials said.

The steep, unstable section of road on Polychrome Pass consists of clay-rich soil on top of several feet of frozen ground. As temperatures rise and precipitation increases, the road portion has started moving downhill, officials said.

“The last six years have been some of the warmest we’ve seen,” park geologist Denny Capps said in a statement.

Restricting access to the only road into the park will prevent travel to popular sites including Polychrome Overlook, Toklat River Rest Stop, Stony Hill Overlook, Eielson Visitor Center, and Wonder Lake areas, officials said.

The East Fork Bridge at mile 43 will be the last place for buses to safely turn around and return east to the park entrance, officials said

Staff are developing an alternative plan for visitor services including moving some services usually available west of mile 43 to the Teklanika Rest Stop at mile 30, officials said.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between access and safety,” acting superintendent Kathleen Przybylski said in a statement. “No one wants to unnecessarily close the road, but we have to use the data and knowledge we have to make good decisions about providing safe access.”

An estimated 600,000 people visit Denali National Park during the summer season, officials said.