Two gates and an entrance booth constructed on the Chilkoot River corridor have Haines residents questioning future access to Chilkoot State Park.

“There’s no intent to close the gates at this time …but when there’s public safety issues, we’re able to address that,” said Mike Eberhardt, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Southeast Area superintendent.

But Pam Randles, president of the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation, said a safety emergency at the state park hasn’t surfaced during the 18 years she’s been in Haines.

“There has been congestion and frustration, but not something that would constitute an emergency,” Randles said. “(Eberhardt) has been upset in the past with the kerfuffle that comes out of the Chilkoot.”

The summer of 2015 was chock-full of negligent behavior from tourists during interactions with bears. Two full-time bear monitors were hired in 2016 to mitigate people-bear interactions.

Although Randles said she doesn’t see a high risk of bear attacks in the area, she said, “I personally don’t see how the gates will bring down those risks, unless it’s to keep people out altogether.”

DNR finalized a site plan in 2014 to install bear viewing platforms and other “bear viewing enhancements” like footpaths, fishing access stairs and vehicle turnout improvements along the river corridor. The parks and recreation website said public workshops were held in Haines in April of 2012 and 2013 to discuss the improvements.

The booth – called an entrance kiosk or interpretive kiosk on different maps – is a part of that plan that went through the public process, but the gates are not. Eberhardt and state park ranger Travis Russell said construction will start on the rest of the plan in the spring.

Eberhardt said the gates were also built because gates in front of Alaska’s state park campgrounds are standard. DNR took over managing the road from the state Department of Transportation in February. Eberhardt referred to the gates as a “management structure” as part of that transfer.

The entrance booth will be used to count visitors and disseminate information about the park, Eberhardt said. It will be staffed during the tourist season.

When asked about possible fees to enter the park, Eberhardt said there is no charge now, but “whether that changes or not is totally up in the air. That can change.”

According to DNR bid documents, four traffic posts and a sign will also be installed.

The Chilkoot River corridor will only be open for foot and bike traffic through Thursday.