Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Low-impact option favored at Chilkoot


Haines residents apparently have come to a general consensus about what they would like new bear-viewing infrastructure in the Chilkoot River corridor to look like.

Lucille Baranko, a landscape specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources who is managing the project, said most residents seem to prefer Alternative “D,” which creates three small viewing decks resting on earthen embankments and three bus pull-outs on the road’s river side.

Residents are leaning toward that alternative, one of four proposed, because it incorporates smaller platforms and disperses people over a larger area, she said.

“It’s only taking the existing impacted areas and making them safer. It’s not proposing too much new development. It’s really looking at existing turnouts, existing pull-outs, existing parking as-is within the corridor and making it safer and improving it, widening it, making it more user-friendly, and dispersing the use throughout the corridor,” Baranko said.

A central, 50-person platform would be located near Deer Rock, and the two periphery platforms with 35-person and 15-person capacities would be located 120 feet north and 120 feet south of Deer Rock, respectively.

About 30 people attended the April 30 informational meeting at the American Bald Eagle Foundation and 21 left comments, Baranko said.

Doug Olerud, who attended the meeting, said he preferred either Alternative C or D. (Alternative C is similar to D, except people are concentrated on one deck instead of three.) “What I’m looking for is something that looks as natural as possible. I want it to look like it fits; I don’t want it to look out of place out there,” Olerud said.

Dan Egolf, who operates a bear-viewing tour in the corridor, also said he supported Alternative D because it features the least amount of infrastructure. Both Egolf and Chilkoot Indian Association tribal administrator Dave Berry said, however, they would  like to see parking areas closer to the bridge rather than further up the road.

“I was hoping they would use already-disturbed parking areas on both sides of the bridge, because it could benefit fishermen and subsistence users, as well,” Egolf said.

Baranko said parking is needed near the bridge, but state parks doesn’t own land on either side of it and the agency can’t propose development on land it doesn’t own.

Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation president Pam Randles said the foundation voted April 29 to support Alternative D, though it isn’t ideal.

“I don’t think there’s a perfect solution. There’s nothing that’s going to make everyone happy, so we’re all going to have to be a little bit dissatisfied. But I think that they’ve done a good job of submitting some designs that make sense to a lot of us,” Randles said.

During the April 30 meeting, Baranko unveiled the corridor’s “Master Development Plan,” a highly conceptual illustration of the projects’ long and short-term goals. Phase One, the only phase with funding, includes the platform, a staffed entrance kiosk, parking and bus loading areas.

Phase One also includes the development of education (brochures, interpretive signs, talks), staffing (more site personnel for enforcement and safety), and regulation (developing rules for fish waste disposal).

  Phase Two involves developing roadside parking and providing stairs to access the river. The plan shows a large long-term parking lot near the Chilkoot Lake campground, but Baranko said the drawing is just to illustrate that more parking is needed, not necessarily where the lot may go.

 Also illustrated is a bypass road, which is depicted as running vaguely parallel to Chilkoot River Road. Baranko said once the platform is constructed, a traffic/capacity study will need to be conducted to determine how to best deal with congestion.

 “Maybe it’s a bypass road, maybe it’s a one-way loop, maybe it’s a permit system, maybe it’s a shuttle, maybe it’s a light rail that goes along the roadway. We don’t know what that is,” Baranko said.

 The state will take the comments it receives and tweak the platform plan to arrive at a preferred alternative. After conducting land surveys, field data collection, and archaeological surveys this summer, the preferred alternative will be modified again to accommodate those results and then be put out for public comment again. It will then be further refined, designed and constructed next year, Baranko said.

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

  The public comment period is open until May 21.