Denali Park Road Capacity Study
In 2006, Denali began a multidisciplinary study designed to optimize visitor experience along the park road while protecting wildlife. Since 1972, traffic on the park road has been limited mostly to buses, and since 1986, a use limit of 10,512 vehicle trips annually has been in effect. Faced with increasing visitation and pressure to defend or change the limits to road traffic, park managers have designed a study to develop a greater understanding of the impacts of traffic volume and traffic patterns on the physical, biological, and social environment of the park. The study is mainly comprised of three components.
To examine potential impacts of Park Road traffic on wildlife movements and distribution, researchers will deploy GPS collars on 20 Dall's sheep and 20 grizzly bears within the road corridor. Location information and movement paths of collared animals will be modeled with habitat and traffic data to determine possible relationships between vehicles on the Park Road and wildlife behavior.
Check it out, viewable in Google Earth - data showing the movements of three of the collared bears from the summer of 2006. Also the movements of two groups of Dall sheep in the summer of 2007. Click on the link to open the layer in Google Earth.
Researchers are examining the expectations and quality of experiences of Denali Park Road vehicle users. As part of this study, visitors are asked to identify and describe issues important to their experience on the Denali Park Road. The results of these interviews will then be used to determine indicators and help set standards for visitor experience on the Park road. Park managers will eventually use resulting indicators and standards to evaluate and manage vehicle traffic by monitoring indicator variables and using a computer simulation model to estimate maximum acceptable vehicle use levels.
NPS Photo - John Hourdos
The Denali Park road has very unique traffic patterns affected by a number of factors such as locations of wildlife sightings, numbers and behavior of buses on the road each day, weather, and road maintenance. To account for the affects of these various factors on traffic flow, researchers will use GPS and wildlife sighting data collected from vehicles driving the park road in 2006/2007 to create a traffic model capable of simulating location and vehicle specific driving behaviors. The model enables researchers to vary bus schedule scenarios, wildlife encounter probabilities and other road logistic rules to quantify and visually analyze predicted bunching, travel times, and following distances of buses and other vehicles along the road. The results will be used to predict and better study traffic related impacts on visitor experience and wildlife behavior.
Ultimately, a comprehensive model of park road traffic will be developed to predict the effects of changes in traffic volume and timing on visitor experience and wildlife movements. If the model and an environmental impact statement suggest that an increase in traffic volume is feasible, an experimental increase in road traffic, timed so as to produce the greatest value in understanding impacts, will be undertaken as part of a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) study. The goal of the road study is to provide park managers with a tool to make the most well-informed decisions about the future of traffic on the park road.
Did You Know?
Small amounts of airborne pollutants from around the world arrive in Denali every year. Remoteness alone cannot protect the park's clean air. As global human population grows, it is likely that increasing global emissions will affect Denali's air quality.