Inter-agency negotiations on the future of the mile-long Chilkoot River Road as well as funding uncertainties will delay for another year construction of riverside bear-viewing facilities, state officials said this week.

The river is a summertime magnet for commercial tours, campers, fishermen and photographers. In recent years it’s also become a loosely managed bear-viewing attraction.

“It’s too late to do anything this season. Figuring out what to do with the road corridor will take some work in the off-season,” said Mike Eberhardt, regional supervisor for the state Division of Parks.

Discussion of the fate of the road has been elevated to director-level staff at the Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources, he said.

DOT wants to relinquish control of the right-of-way, but the Division of Parks doesn’t have funding or equipment to maintain it, including plowing snow in the spring, Eberhardt said. The Division of Parks, which is part of the Department of Natural Resources, would like to see an arrangement under which DOT continues to maintain the road, Eberhardt said.

DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said his agency wants to relinquish ownership of the road to Department of Natural Resources because changes proposed by Division of Parks don’t meet federal or state design standards.

Woodrow said the road sees low volumes of traffic, except in the summer, and that it’s effectively an extension of the Chilkoot Lake park.

DOT is working toward an agreement in which DNR gets ownership of the road and DOT “agrees to work with DNR to maintain the roadway to a level both agencies agree to.”

If DOT remains responsible for the road, there may be problems with the planned design, including logs and rock barriers that would separate a pedestrian trail from the road, Parks’ Eberhardt said.

Factors that complicate the issue include that parks facilities at Chilkoot are sited on Division of Forestry land, and there’s uncertainty about the location of the road right-of-way.

Planned pull-outs and a bear-viewing platform at the site are intended to channel visitors to specific sites, reducing congestion as well as run-ins with brown bears that gather there in late summer to feed on pink salmon.

Although the Division of Parks has $750,000 remaining from an Alaska Legislature appropriation to do remaining work, there was a question of whether the agency would be able to hold on to that money, Eberhardt said.

“It should be safe now. We feel it’s safe enough to move forward,” Eberhardt said.

Legislative cuts to the Division of Parks this year included closing park units in Sitka and Valdez, which will include laying off workers there and at Wood-Tigchik State Park, Eberhardt said.