South Denali Planning - Current Status

Design Funds Received: Alaska State Parks received $3,000,000 from State of Alaska general funds for design of the visitor center facilities. Design work will proceed throughout 2011 and into early 2012.


The State received an access road right-of-way donation from United Companies Incorporated whose primary shareholder is the Native owned and operated Sea Lion Corporation. This right-of-way gives the State a better access to the South Denali project with less impacts and gentler grades. It also sets the stage for the acquisition of a large portion of a Denali State Park inholding.

Here is an audio file courtesy of KTNA Talkeetna Community Radio of an interview regarding this land donation by UCI.

The State has adequate funding in place to begin development of Phase I of the South Denali project. This will be design and construction of the access road to the base transportation hub and its associated amenities as detailed in the EIS and Master Interpretive Plan.

Feasibility Report Completed: The State contracted with the University of Alaska's Center for Economic Development to develop a Feasibility Report for the South Denali Visitor Center Complex. This report consists of a Feasibility Study and an Economic Impacts report.

National Scenic Byway Grants Awarded: Alaska State Parks received two National Scenic Byway grants totaling $1,000,080. The $80,000 will be used to develop a Master Interpretive Plan for the George Parks National Scenic Byway. The $1,000,000 is for constructing the visitor contact station portion of the South Denali Visitor Center complex transportation center. This visitor contact station is in close proximity to the Parks Highway.

Contract Awarded for Road Design Studies: In 2009, Dowl HKM was awarded the contract for road alignment, geotechnical, and environmental studies to layout the road, base facilities and visitor center area. DOWL HKM will complete this work within the next two years.

Scenic Corridor Study: This project will provide a scenic analysis of Matanuska-Susitna Borough and additional public land adjacent to the Parks Highway MP 105 -132, generally from the Susitna River Bridge to the Chulitna Bridge. The Final Scenic Corridor Study and Study Maps & Recommendations explore options for protecting scenic resources into the future, balanced with other development and Community Use Needs The study area was selected because of its proximity to Denali State Park and the future South Denali Visitor Center Complex proximity, and because contiguous public land exists along the roadway—including 9,500 acres of MSB land--that creates an opportunity for a "green ribbon" and protection of extensive scenic resources. A large percentage of these lands already are protected under a 1993 scenic buffer agreement, and lands directly to the north have scenic easements as protected under MSB 17.17 Denali SPUD.

George Parks National Scenic Byway: The George Parks Highway National Scenic Byway begins just south of the South Denali Visitor Center facility and ends in Fairbanks. The George Parks Highway Corridor Partnership Plan is complete. The National Scenic Byway status was announced in mid-October. Future efforts could be undertaken to achieve All American Road status.

LIDAR & Imagery: Airborne radar was collected and processed to produce 2 foot contours of the study area. Complementary aerial imagery was also collected. Used collectively these provide a powerful planning and design tool for the South Denali facilities.

Electrical Extension Planning: Alaska State Parks is funding a design study by Matanuska Electric Association to develop a plan and cost for extending power to mile 134.6 of the Parks Highway. Having electrical power is a critical element for the success of the proposed development.

Trail Planning: Trail planning is ongoing with coordination between the Master Interpretive Plan developers and Landscape Architects from Alaska State Parks.  This will yield the best possible trails with complete attention to user needs and resource sensitivity.

Environmental Analysis: Additional environmental studies will be conducted in the project area. The studies include a historic and archaeological survey and a wetlands delineation.

Access Road Design: Alaska State Parks received State funding dedicated to the design and construction of the access road for the South Denali Visitor Center.  Data collection, planning, and preliminary design will proceed.

S.P.U.D: The Denali State Park Special Land Use District, MSB 17.17, is currently being reviewed by a planning team consisting of Borough staff, residents, local businesses, and interested park users.  Changes to the regulations are being considered to ensure compatibility with the revised DSP Master Plan, and the recommendations in the South Denali Implementation Plan and EIS.  For more information, contact Eileen Probasco, Mat-Su Borough Chief of Planning at (907) 746-7431.

Master Interpretive Plan: Alaska State Parks, with funding from the Matanuska Susitna Borough, contracted with Schmeeckle Reserve Interpreters, a consulting team from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to develop and produce a master interpretive plan for a new visitor center complex to be constructed in Denali State Park.  The plan will help guide the development of the facility, site, trail systems, and media associated with the visitor center. This plan was amended to include the base transportation center and is now complete. Please click on the link below to view it.

Final Interpretive Master Plan - August 2009

South Denali Visitor Center Site Location

Refined Visitor Center location near Lake 1787 (Site 2) selected following extensive planning, site surveys and public and agency input, including:

 The Visitor Center area is geographically separate from the main expanse of Curry Ridge, thereby reducing the potential visitor impacts on the main ridge.  Impacts within the visitor center area can be managed through proper management and design of trails that guide visitors around sensitive areas.

 The concept site proposed in the EIS (Site 1) would require more extensive vegetation removal to enhance viewing opportunities.

 The more open mosaic of trees and shrubs at Site 2 improves visibility along trails to reduce surprise wildlife encounters, protecting both visitors and local wildlife.

 Site 2 offers a greater variety of natural features that through interpretive programming will enhance the visitor’s understanding and appreciation for the Denali region, including unique glacial erratics, beaver ponds, rocky knolls, Lake 1787, etc.

 The gentler topography at Site 2 offers greater accessibility to visitors of varied physical abilities for activities around the visitor center (nature trails, scenic viewpoints, trails to and around Lake 1787).

This location selection is dependent upon the results of a wetlands delineation, historical and archeological survey, and geotechnical evaluation to ensure that it is suitable for facility development.

This careful site selection of the South Denali Visitor Center supports agency and project goals and is consistent with the South Denali Implementation Plan and EIS.

For a map of the proposed visitor center location, click here.

For more information on the site selection please click here.

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