April 25, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 16

Meeting Tuesday on bear-viewing platform

Residents will get to review and comment on four “design concepts” of a bear-viewing infrastructure at Chilkoot River, including parking alternatives and other site improvements, at a meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at the American Bald Eagle Foundation.

The state Department of Natural Resources recently released four alternatives for changes along a 400-foot section of the riverside road that connects Chilkoot River and Chilkoot Inlet, aimed at relieving congestion and providing for bear-viewing. The 400-foot section extends about 250 feet north of Deer Rock, and about 150 feet south of it.

Each alternative includes a viewing area or areas on the river side of the road, as well as a new parking lot with 10 new spaces adjacent to the main viewing platform but on the opposite side of the road. A single toilet also would be located at the parking lot. Each alternative also would upgrade the 400-foot section roadway to a 20-foot driving surface and prohibit stopping along it.

Alternative “A” is a loop-shaped, raised platform on pilings, about the length of the 10-space parking area. The structure would have two, bear-proof gates, two levels and a section that is roofed. With room for 100 or more visitors, it’s described at the state’s website as “typical approach to bear-viewing in Alaska.” It would be designed to accommodate a 200-foot long pedestrian walkway on its south side, as a potential “Phase 2” of work.

Alternative “B” would create a single-level deck at road level, also on pilings, about half as long as alternative “A” with a capacity of about 85 visitors. It would leave an area north along the river for pullouts that would accommodate two large buses.

Alternative “C” would create a cantilevered viewing deck with a capacity of 95 people and leave room for three bus pullouts on the road’s river side.

Alternative “D” would create three, smaller viewing decks resting on earthen embankments: a central one near Deer Rock with a capacity of 50 people, one about 120 feet north along the road with a capacity of 35 people and one about 120 feet south of Deer Rock with a 15-person capacity. It also would leave room for three bus pull-outs on the road’s river side.

According to the DNR, “developing a facility that parallels the Chilkoot River and Chilkoot River Road will allow safe access separating humans and bears for controlled viewing. Additional parking in the area will improve access to fishing and bear viewing, will facilitate emergency vehicle access and will reduce cultural resource damage.”

Funded by the Alaska Legislature at about $1 million, the platform is considered Phase 1 of the plan, and the only part of it funded to date.

Illustrations of the alternatives can be found at Division of Parks website, http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/plans/chilkootlk/chilkootriver.htm.

Comments can be made to Lucille Baranko, 550 West 7th Ave., Suite 1340, Anchorage, AK 99501. They can be sent via email to lucille.baranko@alaska.gov or by fax to (907) 269-8917. Written or verbal comments will be accepted.

Depending on how the planning process goes, construction is slated to begin next spring, with completion before mid-summer.