By TOBEY SCHMIDT
The National Park Service (NPS) and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) are studying transportation options for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park between Skagway and Dyea.
Representatives from both organizations recently appeared at the Aug. 4 Dyea Community Advisory Board meeting to discuss the transportation feasibility study.
“The reason we’re doing this project is we’ve recognized the growth,” said Paul Schrooten, landscape architect for NPS Department of Interior. “As things continue to grow in Skagway, does that mean growth for Dyea as well? Are there needs that aren’t being met – from the park’s perspective – in terms of infrastructure, programming, staffing out there?”
Schrooten and Mike Tranel, superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, brought along two representatives from the USDOT Volpe Center. The four of them met with the advisory board at its meeting on Aug. 4 to get feedback and share perspectives.
The NPS and USDOT representatives proposed the idea of creating a public transit system that would allow people to travel back and forth between Skagway and Dyea. They proposed that it might increase safety by decreasing the number of vehicles on the road.
Members of the advisory board responded with feedback and suggestions.
“If you make the access easier, or increase the access to Dyea in anticipation of growth, you’re going to facilitate that growth,” said advisory board Member Bruce Weber. “So that growth may not have happened if you didn’t do the project.”
Mary Thole, also a member of the advisory board, expressed that Dyea is a place for locals to go and get away from the tourism, where kids can ride bikes without the big buses on the road. Thole did give suggestions for a possible shuttle.
“It makes sense to have a shuttle,” Thole said. “It’s such a limited access right now.”
She suggested that the NPS could have a small passenger-van shuttle go out to Dyea two or three times a day with specific drop-off spots. It would not be a tour.
Thole added that it would be a good idea for the shuttle to have a bike rack, so people can explore the area that way as well.
“They’d need to be notified it’s a backcountry destination,” Thole said.
Alaska Excursions owner Robert Murphy, one of a few companies with tours in Dyea, expressed concern of tourists being dropped off in Dyea without a plan.
“Having a plan for what you’re going to do there is huge,” Murphy said.
In addition, Murphy doesn’t think there would be any reason for people who already drive their vehicles out to Dyea for recreation to take a shuttle instead.
“As far as transportation, the only thing I see as a real benefit is, perhaps, finding a way to decrease five small automobiles into one small shuttle,” Murphy said. “Is that realistically going to happen? How do you get them to take a shuttle?” The feasibility study has already begun and will be completed in Spring 2018. To provide comments or feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org.