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Denali NP Begins Limited Bus Runs

National Park Service

Buses began running out the road into Denali National Park yesterday (Wednesday).  As KUAC Dan Bross reports, the service has been modified and supplemented with other travel options in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

Denali bus service out the park road began later than normal, and is also only travelling as far as the Eielson Visitor’s Center at mile 66. Park spokesperson G.W. Hitchcock there are also other transportation program changes reflective of both health concerns and a pandemic caused downturn in park visitation.   

DR Buses: Q:”..vehicle entry program.”

That program new and special for this summer allows people to apply on line for a limited number of daily spots to drive their own vehicle out the road to mile 66 over 5 long weekends beginning next week. Hitchcock says the initial offering went live last week on the website: recreation dot gov, and the permits sold out fast.

DR Permits: Q:”…at that point.”      

Hitchcock says the park service is being flooded with inquiries about the program.

DR Calls: Q:”…couple hundred a day.”

The Eielson road permits aren’t the only way to be able to drive out the Park Road this summer. The NPS is also allowing 4 businesses to offer road tours.

DR Caravan: Q:”…the Park Road.”

Mollie Foster, with Traverse Alaska, says the vehicle tours offer a safe way to drive the road and see wildlife.

DR Safe: Q:”…following their guide.”

It costs 895 dollars for the one day tour, including rental of the Suburban, which can accommodate a driver and up to 7 passengers. Foster says she hopes Alaskans help fill the void created by this summer’s pandemic caused reduction in outside visitors.

DR Void T2T: Q:”…business wise down here.”

Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker says the downturn is dramatic given the Denali area’s continual tourism growth in recent decades.   

DR Dramatic: Q:’…just so dramatic.”

Mayor Walker says hundreds of millions of dollars that normally circulate through the community in the summer are missing, devastating local businesses, and slashing bed tax revenue that largely supports borough government. 

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.