By Aly De Angelus
The National Park Service (NPS) is accepting public comment on proposed rule changes in Alaska until Feb. 15. Jason Verhaeghe, head of interpretation and education for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, said one of the proposed changes would require Chilkoot Trailer overnight hiker registration during the shoulder seasons.
If adopted, the park would ask hikers to register their time on the trail, pre- and post-high season, to get an estimate of how many people are using the trail. Verhaeghe said one reason is to ensure the Park Service can provide adequate safety and support on the trail.
“If this increase in registration gives us information that says there are a significant amount of visitors pre- and post-high season, maybe that will indicate that we need to increase staff or keep staff on longer or start them earlier,” Verhaeghe said.
There will be no charge to register. If the Park Service adopts the change, it would take effect this September.
Park Service data showed a slight increase in daily hikers last summer. Verhaeghe attributes this to the 8 percent increase in cruise ship visitors, but hopes to gain more data of both summer and winter hikers, including those who don’t complete the trail.
These numbers are important for NPS to ensure all hikers are accounted for and traffic does not exceed the maximum of 50 hikers per day. “We theorize people may be using just the U.S. side, so we want to better inform ourselves of that,” Verhaeghe said.
Another proposed rule change includes regulation of e-bicycles, a request from the regional office for all national parks in Alaska. Bikes powered by an electric motor would be prohibited wherever traditional bicycles are prohibited. Verhaeghe said it is a non-issue for Klondike National Gold Rush National Historical Park. To his knowledge, no hiker has ever used an e-bicycle on the trail.
The compiled draft rules also would reduce the volume of mushrooms a person can harvest for personal use, down from three gallons to one gallon, to protect park resources.
Comment for the park opened on Jan. 21. Verhaeghe said the compiled rule changes is an important document and the public should review all the changes.
“The compendium is kind of our guiding document of how we manage the park, and this park belongs to the American public,” Verhaeghe said.