Concerned about increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic and human-bear encounters in the Chilkoot Corridor, Lutak Spur Road resident Richard Buck asked the borough’s Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) to consider making a recommendation to the borough assembly to hire bear monitors.

“There’s a tremendous amount of traffic,” Buck said during a Sept. 29 TAB meeting. “It seems to have no end to it. There is no monitoring of the traffic, of the people, of the bears, of anything.

Buck said monitors should cover a morning and afternoon shift, five days a week from July through October.

“Give these monitors some semblance of authority, whether it be a uniform or a badge, something that lets them have a degree of authority where they could say to somebody, ‘no you can’t come in here,’” Buck said.

Most of the TAB members agreed that issues persist along the Chilkoot River and that recent road reconstruction aimed at reducing loitering in the area, including a narrower roadway and no shoulder parking, did little to alleviate the problems of vehicles and pedestrians stopping along the road to view and photograph bears.

Alaska Mountain Guides owner and TAB member Sean Gaffney said after seeing the increased congestion due to the recent road reconstruction, he thinks TAB made the wrong call when it voted 5-2 earlier this summer to recommend removing the moratorium on new commercial tours in the Chilkoot Corridor.

“It is so much worse than it was before because of the narrowed roadway. There is gridlock, traffic,” Gaffney said. “People are literally walking in the road because there is nowhere else for them to walk. This is overwhelmingly independent folks, but it all combines to create a really difficult situation out there.”

Board member Diana Lapham echoed the concerns and said TAB needed to bring stakeholders together to find a solution.

“We’re all pulling our hair out, what can we do,” Lapham said. “Now we’ve got a much narrower road and people are still stopping on the road. The idea, I think, was to have enforcement to keep them moving. DNR does not have that staffing and manpower.”

Alaska State Parks superintendent Preston Kroes did travel to Haines from Juneau this summer to monitor the area. He told the CVN last month that crowding issues remained.

State Parks has been unable to fill park ranger positions across the state, Mayor Douglas Olerud said. He added that he’s reached out to Chilkoot Indian Association to see if they could partner with the borough on working on issues related to the area.

“I think there does need to be more enforcement out there and somebody carrying a badge and there does need to be more than one person. The borough doesn’t own the river. The borough doesn’t own the park,” Olerud said. “All we can do is put pressure on our state partners.”

TAB member Carol Tuynman made a motion to schedule a stakeholder meeting to further discuss the issue but the motion died for lack of a second.

TAB members also discussed creating a “code of conduct” for tour operators to address issues including commercial companies using public picnic areas.

TAB member Lori Smith said she’s heard complaints about residents being unable to use picnic areas at Picture Point and other areas. She said she heard about a group of children who went to Picture Point to celebrate a birthday party but had to turn around because the entire area was taken up by a tour company.

“I think the tour operators should provide their own tents and tables,” Smith said.

TAB member Barbara Nettleton suggested creating the document.Tuynman and Sean Gaffney will assist with drafting the document.