by Phillip Manning ~ August 14th, 2013
Denali State Park will be adding new facilities as part of a two-phase project that is planned to culminate in a new South Denali Visitor Center. The groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the South Denali Visitor’s Center project will be held on Friday. Phase one does not include the development of the actual Visitor’s Center, but does include other recreational facilities, as David Griffin, a Natural Resource Specialist with the State Park, explains.
“Phase one includes the construction of a 1.5 mile long access road, a twenty-two stall day-use parking-slash-trailhead. A one mile interpretive trail, which will have interpretive components–different panels–talking about the natural history of the area. There’s going to be a thirty-two space campground with electrical hookups. Theres going to be a fifteen site walk-in tent camping area, and there will be several miles of new trail developed in the vicinity.”
The first phase will also include a ranger station and maintenance facilities. Griffin says it is designed to provide a base of operations for State Parks staff throughout the Visitor Center development. The second phase is still being planned and involves more extensive construction and development.
“If we receive full funding for the project, then we would move on to phase two, which would include development of an access road up to a site just below Curry Ridge, and then the construction of a visitor center–a world class facility–that would have interpretive components, multi-use facilities, incredible viewing opportunities–both inside and outside of the facility–interpretive trails around a lake…and then trails that would connect up to Curry Ridge–maybe take some hikers past the historic Curry Lookout, and then would ideally connect over to the Kasugi Ridge trail system.”
Griffin says that the state hopes to have the camp ground open in late 2014 or early 2015, depending on the weather. Ground clearing has begun, and the electrical grid is being expanded north along the Parks Highway in connection with the project.
The groundbreaking will be attended by a number of state legislators, as well as Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey, Denali National Park Superintendent Don Striker, and representatives from United Companies Inc., the Hooper Bay village corporation subsidiary that donated 104 acres of land to the project. The ceremony will be held at mile 135 of the Parks Highway and begins at 11:00 am on Friday.