PROVISIONS FOR RECREATIONAL USE
CHARACTER OF USE ANTICIPATED. The concern of this report is primarily with the use of the highways by those who will drive or be driven over them for purely recreational purposes. The designation of "tourist" has long been applied to such travelers for pleasure, and probably there is no better term, although a slight tinge of disrespect has gradually attached itself to the name. As used here it does not bar those who have made advance selection of major recreational objectives within the Territory. Careful preparation of tourist itineraries tends toward more nearly complete realization of maximum trip pleasures. They should not be accorded such slavish adherence as to prevent the inclusion of additional interesting objectives which appear.
Beyond this pleasure use, there will be many northbound travelers whose plans do not include a return journey, individual persons and families bent on establishing new homes under circumstances which they have come to believe will be more fortunate than those which they are abandoning.
Present use of the Alaska Highway and of other roads in the Territory keys directly with military activities. This war will end and civilian travel resume; military traffic will dwindle but hardly disappear. Military convoys, which are normally self-subsistent, make little use of accommodations for public convenience, but travel by officers and soldiers on detached service will differ little in character from that by citizens in civil life.
Alaskans are extensive travelers. Heretofore the prevalent unit has been the passenger-mile by air. With current improvements in the road system, there is reason to suppose that the corresponding road-mile index will keep pace.
Some business travel will be purely local, such as road patrol trips returning to base each night. Other trips will be more of a continuing nature; it is not hard to vision salesmen covering Valdez, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and intermediate communities. If ferry service southward from Haines materializes who is to say that persons from the Interior and "the Westward", having business at the capital city during the summer season, will not drive with their families to Haines and there take boat to Juneau? Automobiles would be left at Haines to await their return or freighted on the ferry, as their personal requirements dictated. It is certain that those habituated to flight from Fairbanks to Juneau as a necessity will wish to drive over the road at least once, if only for the novelty of the experience.
Road travel by Alaskans for pleasure may increase materially. In the various open seasons for game, it has been customary for parties of sportsmen from the cities to drive out along the highways, leave their cars at roadhouses conveniently located with respect to favored habitats of beast or fowl or fish, and from these centers carry on activities of the chase. In view of the additional territory opened up by the Alaska and Glenn Highways, it is logical that consideration should be given to this custom in allocating space along the roads for the accommodation of the public.
The citizens of Fairbanks have built colonies of summer cottages around Salchaket and Birch Lakes, within easy driving range by Richardson Highway. Similar developments to serve Anchorage are to be expected. Highway traffic between year-round and seasonal homes is naturally heavier over the summer week-ends, families remaining continuously at camp during the warmer months, while the wage-earner is able to enjoy its pleasures only between Saturday noon and Monday morning.
Vacation use of favored recreational sites will probably increase in Alaska, whether participated in by residents or by visitors to the Territory. Circle Springs has been mentioned. Developments are indicated in new locations, places where the Alaskan may spend a week in relaxing surroundings away from his usual milieu, and where the tourist may break his trip for more than a single night, perhaps spending several days in recovery from too protracted a travel-jag.
One spot along the highways is especially adapted for such purposes. The environmental qualities of Mentasta Lake have been mentioned. About 285 miles from Anchorage and 260 miles from Fairbanks, its major characteristics are more restful than spectacular, an ideal place in which to idle away a summer day. Lands near the lake lie well for development for vacation facilities, wooded bluffs overlooking the water. Spruce predominates along the southern rim, and second growth aspen covers the land between the highway and the western shore. Fishing is reputed to be excellent at Mentasta.
FACTORS INFLUENCING VOLUME OF USE. Estimation of the volume of future recreational use of Alaska's highways can not be mathematically exact. It is only possible to consider the manner in which some certain factors will affect the volume, and to draw general inferences from study of similar travel, in the States, to the areas which are comprised in our great federal system of parks.
Among influencing factors none is more powerful than publicity, according to its extent and nature. One is not inspired to visit scenes which have not been brought to his favorable attention. Previous chapters have touched upon publicity accorded to Alaska and things Alaskan in the recent past. Some of it has doubtless been unwise, even misleading and tending toward later disillusion, but the fact remains that Alaska has been more widely publicized during the last three years than at any time since the gold-rush furore subsided. Stimulation of recreational travel is unquestioned, even if its degree is debatable.
The distance which must be traveled to reach a given objective enters clearly into a quantitative determination of probable travel, because of its interdependence with costs involved, whether in money or in time. Full response to the publicity-engendered urge to visit Alaska will be retarded by realization of the distances which separate it from our population masses. As noted, the road distance to Fairbanks from the United States center of population is more than 4,200 miles. The round trip from Terre Haute, to include visits to Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Valdez alone, without glimpses of other Alaskan cities, would add 9,200 miles to the odometer of the family car.
An alternate trip within the States, with the same total mileage and more quickly accomplished, would include the cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fort Worth and Dallas, New Orleans, Birmingham, Knoxville, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Pittsburgh, with stops for relaxation in at least eight of the national parks along the way; Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Glacier, Mount Rainier, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, and Great Smoky Mountains. Length of the trip is much easier grasped when exemplified in these more familiar terms.
The trip to Alaska will not be made as easily or as rapidly as one of similar mileage in the States. The condition of Canadian roads from the United States to Dawson Creek has been noted. Even after reaching the Alaska Highway, travel will be over water-bound gravel roads, hard-surfaced or treated for dust reduction only in the cities. Tendency of gravel roads to "washboard" is recognized. Dust arising from untreated surfaces becomes not only an inconvenience and discomfort to the traveler, but an actual hazard. Knowledge of these conditions will deter many potential tourists.
The highway trip is not for those whose vacation period is limited to the stereotyped "two weeks in August". To accomplish the suggested 9,200-mile journey, at normal tourist speeds and without any allowance for side excursions so necessary to full understanding of the country, may take from a month to five weeks, depending on weather conditions and inclinations of the driver. Those who travel for business purposes will perhaps drive parts of the way at a much higher speed, but the tourist, seeing Alaska for the first, and perhaps the only time, should not be forced to a haste of passage which will not admit full enjoyment of the scene.
There are no accommodations for entertainment of the tourist along the Alaska Highway; none will be established by private enterprise until adjacent lands are released from the present withdrawal from entry. If this fact is made known to potential visitors, as a duty to the public, many will defer the proposed trip until such time as facilities are available, a desirable and commendable end. Until overnight stopping places, restaurants, and fueling stations are provided for the Alaska and the Glenn, only those should attempt the tour who are versed in life away from material comforts, familiars of the sleeping-bag, and who know how to stock and use grub-boxes and reserve fuel tanks sufficient to outlast the journey from Whitehorse to Dawson Creek or to Fairbanks.
The dollars-and-cents cost of the Alaskan tour will be somewhat more than one of similar extent within the States. Prices of motor fuels and oils in the northland are now considerably higher than those in the United States. Postwar commercial operation of the war-built petroleum processing and distributing system will probably reduce but not eliminate this added cost. Prices for food and lodging will be higher than those in the States, partly because of freight charges on commodities imported from there, but more because Alaska clings to a depreciated standard of value for the dollar, a survival from the gold-rush period when it was difficult to obtain goods. In the Territory, wages and living costs alike are high. It may well be that the leavening influence of the tourist inflow will be reflected in some reduction of costs for food and lodging, but probably for some time to come the prospective tourist to Alaska should assume that trip costs will be one-fourth higher per mile and per day than while in the States. This fact will diminish expectancy of travel.
QUANTITATIVE ESTIMATE OF USE. Consideration of probable annual tourist travel over the Highway to Alaska must be prefaced by a warning that pretence to accuracy would be quackery. At best, it is only possible to draw parallels from travel with similar ends but to shorter distances.
Tourists to Alaska may be considered as motivated by urges similar to those which inspire visits to National Parks. For many of these, year-by-year information is available concerning the number of automobile visitors from each state. The attempt to evaluate probable Alaskan travel has included an analysis of travel data from a representative group of parks. 1940 was selected as a base, because of its coincidence with the latest census, and because it is the latest year in which the effects of war participation are not reflected.
Many factors contribute to the ability of a park to attract visitors to itself. Chief among these are (1) its intrinsic values, scenic, scientific, historic, or recreational, (2) the extent to which it has been brought to favorable public attention, by advertising and by operation methods pleasing to the visitor, and (3) its location with respect to population masses and to other similar areas.
The road trip to Alaska was earlier likened to one of similar length within the States, a journey which would include visits to eight National Parks. Assume for the nonce that the family of a postwar Indiana professor, seeking summer-long respite from confining routine, might find it hard to choose between the two trips. For that family, the allure of Alaska would be equal to the combined attraction of the eight parks.
Studies have been made of the recreational travel from various centers of population to several parks which are of approximately equal allure but which are located at differing distances from the studied centers. It develops that there is a very definite relation between the proportion of population from any locality which will visit a given park and the distance of that park from the locality.
In attempting an application of this relationship to recreational travel by highway to Alaska, it is at once apparent that the significant factor will be the cost of travel rather than actual mileage covered. Simply expressed, as many persons will make the Alaska journey as would essay a trip in the States with similar objectives but 25 percent longer in miles.
By taking these and other pertinent factors into consideration, it may be deduced that as many as 40,000 tourists will drive over the Alaska Highway each year, enroute to the Territory. This figure is presented as an average, which may be exceeded during the first years of unrestricted travel and followed by a sharp drop and a long, steady growth. It presupposes improvement and maintenance of the Alaska Highway and its approaches, provision of suitable accommodations conveniently spaced along the way, and resumption of prewar touring habits. If the first two conditions are not effected, use of the road as a means of tourist access to Alaska may be disregarded, and its cost written off as an investment in national security.
To this figure of 40,000 expected annual tourists by automobile must be added an estimate of those who will travel to Alaska by bus and those who will reach the Territory by other means but will use bus travel to become closely acquainted with the land. Taking into account the number of tourists who went to Alaska by ship in prewar years and the probable expansion of air transportation after the war, an increment of 20 percent for this purpose seems less than optimistic. The total number of estimated annual visitors to the highways of Alaska has now reached 48,000.
From several sample itineraries, all carefully prepared, and considering what may be seen from the Alaskan roads and in towns reached by them, the average tourist stay in the Territory is estimated at not less than 8 days. Nor does this seem overly long when compared with the 3,900-mile trip which will be required before Alaska is even entered. It will take nearly a month for the average tourist to reach the Yukon-Alaska border and return home from it, unless road conditions are improved materially.
Assuming the vacation season to be 13 weeks, from June 10 to September 10, and deducting the time which will be needed for the round trip between the States and the Border, the tourist season in Alaska will be only about 64 days. The ultimate inference is that there may be as many as 6,000 tourists in Alaska on an average summer day after the war, if motor touring is facilitated through improvement of highways and provision of hostels. This is the basis upon which will be predicated recommendations for the distribution and capacity of facilities for roadside accommodation.
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE HIGHWAYS. The Alaska Highway has been constructed as a war measure, and without particular consideration of the role which it may play in the recreational picture of the future. Repeated statements from military sources have made it clear that the interests of the War Department have been only in a road capable of carrying, over a period of 5 years, a northbound and a southbound stream of traffic, each composed of units of size, weight, and mobility needed for military purposes.
The reasons for this viewpoint are recognized. Total efforts of the nation have been absorbed with successful prosecution of the war. Activities retardant to this aim have no place in the program of the nation until our national safety has been assured. Nevertheless, it is wise to consider and propose for future attainment such modifications of the residue of war necessities as will render them of greater peacetime use. Certain of these may come about gradually and naturally, during further military operation, to facilitate military traffic beyond bare possible accomplishment. Others, which serve no military necessity but are indispensable if the Highway is to carry tourist travel, are fit subjects for a postwar program.
Line and Grade. The Mentasta Road section of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Military Road are not currently up to the standards of the Tanana Valley portion of the through route, so far as alignment and grades are concerned. Possibly both sections will be somewhat improved under military operation; whether to equivalence with the Tanana Valley road is doubtful. It is important to their future value that full equality be accorded them, to the Haines Cutoff on account of its vital position in the integrated Territorial network, to Mentasta Road for similar reasons and because it provides access to desirable recreational lands along the highway. Sharp and dangerous curves should be eliminated, sight distances lengthened, and sufficient surface width provided to make danger of sideswiping less prevalent than at present.
Surfacing. The Alaska and all other highways in the Territory will be more attractive to tourists if treated with some measure of surfacing beyond the mere gravel wearing coat. Climatic conditions and amount of use per mile involved place concrete paving beyond the limits of economic consideration. A part of the cost of bituminous application would be recoverable in reduced maintenance costs. The effects of the extreme winter temperatures of the Tanana Valley upon bituminous surfaces must be considered, but data of value in this connection may be garnered from past experiences in paving airport runways in the vicinity.
If paving of a relatively permanent nature is not deemed economic or advisable, recourse to chemical treatment to minimize the dust will be necessary. This will effect only temporary improvement of the disagreeable condition, will do little to hinder "washboard" tendencies, and will involve periodic seasonal applications. Bituminous surfacing should receive sympathetic consideration.
Cleanup. Clearing operations in advance of the Highway have been simple. Because of underlying frozen ground, root systems form as shallow disks close to the surface, without tap-root anchors. Bulldozers have pushed obstacles, trees, brush, and top soil alike, beyond the limits of operation. The width of clearing has been increased as paralleling oil and telephone lines have been added.
Effective though this procedure may have been, windrows of tangled tree branches and trunks will constitute a distinct fire hazard when the road is opened to normal traffic, and until the accumulated debris has rotted into soil or been disposed of by artificial means. Incidence of fires has not been heavy during construction, because of the ability of the Alaska Fire Control to impress upon soldiers and civilian workers alike, through sympathetic cooperation of commanding officers and contractors, the necessity for constant precaution. Individual presentation of the seriousness of the situation to thousands of tourist groups will be impossible for the limited staff maintained by or expected to be available to the preventive agency. Elimination of inflammable material will protect Alaska's timber resources and maintain its scenic attractiveness.
Slopes and Ditches. The driving need to complete a passable road from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks has left small chance for refinements beyond the limits of the roadbed, such as are considered advisable in parkway projects and in the more utilitarian major highways of the States. Surfacing material has been dug from borrow-pits, easily accessible from the road but sometimes marring its scenic values. Side-slopes have often been left steeper than the angle which the soil can eventually maintain. Side-ditches have been seen only as channels necessary to remove water which might otherwise damage the road. In the rolling section near the Border, soil conditions are conducive to erosion of over-steep slopes and unwidened ditches. The results of heavy early-summer rains in 1944 attest the necessity for revisions.
For reduction in maintenance costs as well as for the impression upon future travelers, it would be well to flatten side-slopes and roll them into the intersected contours, to convert angular-sectioned ditches into broad-arc gutters, thus dissipating erosional force, and to take needed measures to stabilize the soil within the disturbed areas. Roadside planting as practiced in the States does not appear so necessary in Alaska. Road scars heal quickly there, the omnipresent fireweed takes over with surprising rapidity, and the summer traveler finds difficulty in estimating the age of the road over which his car passes.
Selective Cutting. The hedged-in passage of the spruce-enclosed tangents in the Tanana Valley has been mentioned. Yet, beyond the enclosing walls of living green, the Alaska Range rises to the south and the silvery, sinuous Tanana is deployed to the north. Judicious cutting along the right-of-way, supervised by men trained in forestry practice and in recognition of scenic possibilities, would open up vistas of enchantment. The tedium of unvarying journey would be relieved without detracting from full appreciation of the natural beauties of the terrain. The out-of-pocket cost of the improvement would be diminished by the fuel value of the wood removed.
Mileage Marking. Mile-posting of roads is a part of the Alaskan picture, a definite service to the public. Roadhouses, stream crossings, grades, and interest-points of all sorts are remembered as at Mile so-and-so from such-and-such on this-or-that highway. It will become even more valuable to the tenderfoot from the States who pilots his own car. At home he has usually recognized highways by state or federal number, rarely by designation. In the Territory he will find the highways bearing names commemorative of those who pioneered or supervised their construction. In the States, informational signs at road intersections have supplemented his study of road maps with distances and directions to prominent towns; in Alaska road intersections are less frequent and he relies upon mile-posts as much as odometer readings to check his progress.
The system of mile-posting has developed with the highways. The Richardson, first unit to be built, was numbered consecutively from Valdez inland to Fairbanks, but many relocations have invalidated the accuracy. Mile-posts have recently been set at approximate 5-mile intervals from Fairbanks toward and as far as Delta Junction. The Steese starts from Fairbanks and progresses to Circle. The Abercrombie Trail counts mileage toward Nabesna from its point of departure from the Richardson. Edgerton Cutoff likewise begins at its Willow Creek divergence.
On the Alaska Highway, temporary mile-posts were set by the Army as the pioneer road progressed from various attack points. In Alaska, zero was at Slana (Mile 64 on the Abercrombie Trail); Mile 72 fell at Tok Junction; and at the Canadian boundary, on the 141st meridian, Alaska mileage 174 met a Yukon mileage 322 west from Whitehorse, another main point of attack.
As the Public Roads Administration extended its surveys along the location then proposed as final, still another system of mileage-marking boards was established. In this case, numbering was generally toward the northwest, continuous over the entire length of road, although attack from various points necessitated assumptions and later equalizations. For instance, the intersection of the Alaska and the Richardson Highways, not far from Big Delta, was assumed as Mile 2,000 and distances stepped backward to the Robertson River crossing, at which point an equalization of approximately 63 miles was effected with surveys from the southeast.
To further confuse acceptance of existing mile-posts along the route of the Alaska Highway, the road as it is now constructed follows in part the original military alignment, sometimes the surveys of the Public Roads Administration, and elsewhere neither one. Since discontinuance of construction, the through route has been mile-posted from Dawson Creek northward and westward to Delta Junction. The accuracy of spacing in this setting is questionable. The Alaska Highway should be marked once more before tourist use begins.
Mileages on the newly-constructed Glenn Highway are cited from Palmer, the starting point of latest work, although Anchorage, earlier connected with Palmer, is the significant terminal of the route. In addition, the easterly 43 miles of the Glenn is marked with boards showing the distance from its intersection with the Richardson Highway, rather than from Palmer.
Distances used throughout this report have been obtained by referring each point in question to the nearest available mile-post, preferably to one in the latest series of markings if several sets have been in effect. They are to be regarded only as approximations, and as subject to revision if or when mile-posting is established upon the basis of accurate alignment surveys.
It is recognized that definition of road distance in Alaska is a privilege and responsibility of the highway administering agency. However, it seems no more than fitting to call attention to benefits which would accrue to the traveling public, now that Alaska has an interconnected system of roads, if a concerted and coordinated system of mileage marking were adopted for the Territory, even to the extent of abandoning all the designations now in use. Long years of usage have strengthened the position of present markings, as on the Richardson, but simplification for future use would seem to outweigh the inconvenience of having to become acquainted with new procedure.
In many of the states it has been an accepted practice to compute mileages throughout the state from zero mile-stones located in the capital city. Because of Juneau's isolation, so far as highway connection is concerned, from the great body of the Territory, this system would not be applicable or advantageous to Alaska.
In view of the significance which tourist travel by automobile is expected to attain, it would seem logical that all connected roads in Alaska west of the 141st meridian should be marked with mileages measured from the point of ordinary road entry, the crossing of that meridian. Thus Tok Junction would be at Mile 94, Fairbanks 302, Circle 464, Mentasta Lake 145, Valdez 358, and Anchorage 435. The only road which is not admirably adapted to this course is that section of the Richardson Highway between Delta Junction and Gulkana.
Telephone. Communication for the entire length of the Alaska Highway and from Delta Junction to Fairbanks is now possible by means of an up-to-date telephone installation, carried out as a part of the Alaska Highway program. Other of the Alaskan roads are paralleled by less satisfactory lines, or not at all. The advisability of extending this coverage to all of the Alaskan roads is evident. Telephone connection with terminal cities and with each other will be invaluable to the managers of the individual places of refreshment for travelers. Bus operation will be made easier. Patrolmen of the road-administering agency will need means of immediate communication in emergencies; sometimes the very difference between life and death will depend upon its availability. Short-wave two-way radio has been used to some extent in the States as an aid to highway patrol and may come into general use in Alaska, although terrain and deposits of minerals will perhaps render it less effective. It would be a simple matter to train and equip all patrolmen to mount the nearest pole and establish immediate communication with hospitals or doctors if the exigencies of the situation demanded.
FACILITIES NEEDED IN CONJUNCTION WITH HIGHWAYS. A highway provides in itself only the path by which vehicular travel is accomplished from one place to another. Various adjuncts, keyed closely to the road but not a part of it, are necessary if travel over its length is to be easy, or even possible. Shelter and food must be provided for the traveler, as well as fuel and service for his vehicle. New trunk highways in thickly settled portions of the States have largely been improvements or relatively minor relocations of existing roads; and so roadside facilities have already been extant along the route. Even in less populous sections, the new roads have touched various communities, and private development of gasoline stations, repair garages, hot-dog stands, and other businesses of that ilk has usually been sufficient to fill requirements in the intervening vacancies. Only recently, and in connection with parkways, toll roads, and other traffic ways of the limited-access type, has the advisability of controlled provision of services of this nature been recognized.
The Alaska Highway touches no communities of any significance, save Whitehorse, in its length from Dawson Creek north to Fairbanks. Towns served by other Alaskan roads are mainly terminal to them. Because of the expected preponderance of travel of a recreational nature, and because the way is not presently cluttered with undesirable accessories, it is the part of wisdom to plan for orderly and controlled development of these facilities rather than to leave their initiation to individual and perhaps unwise private adventure. This is not to imply appropriation of the right to construct roadside facilities to governmental agencies or authorized private interests; it does provide means for private developments to conform to standards precluding their intrusion upon the attractiveness of the scene and assuring provision of adequate and suitable services to the traveler.
Communities. It has long been axiomatic in the States that communities develop at and about the intersections of major highways in rural settings. The gas station is first in the field, branching out with groceries and supplies, and then a modest row of tourist cabins, as the enterprise becomes established. To protect the investment, the family of the owner is domiciled in a new building near at hand. A mechanically inclined youngster, hired as helper, soon leaves to open a repair garage nearby. Secure in his new status, he marries and founds a home across the road. The bride's parents, retired from active pursuits and missing the more her youth and charm, come to make their abode near her. Thus gradually arises an independent community.
There is reason to suspect that the pattern will be followed in Alaska, now that its roads begin to form a connected web. Potential communities will probably come to be modeled along village or town lines, offering to travelers and to residents of the countryside those commercial advantages which are necessary to the conduct of their affairs. General stores, gas stations, automobile repair garages, restaurants, lodging houses, and perhaps small hotels are indicated.
In addition to these "commercial" communities, others will be developed which are better classed as "operational" centers. Nuclei have already been established in the form of automotive repair shops, telephone repeater stations, and petroleum boosters necessary to Army operation of vehicular and air transport. Some of these will doubtless carry over into the postwar period; others may be required as headquarters for road maintenance crews.
Maintenance of the Alaska Highway immediately subsequent to its construction was handled by the Corps of Engineers, through contracts with firms which were active in construction under supervision of the Public Roads Administration, and later by direct labor. Summer maintenance in 1944 was done for the Army by the Alaska Road Commission, upon a reimbursable basis. Under normal operations, this task must be performed by some agency regularly occupied with Territorial affairs, in the same way that the Alaska Road Commission now maintains the Richardson and other highways.
In the case of these other roads the Commission has continued the use of construction camps for housing maintenance gangs and storing equipment and supplies. In some cases, intermediate roadhouses, abandoned because of the increased speed of travel, have been utilized. Along the Alaska Highway, as a temporary expedient, some of the leftover camps have been used as work centers for maintenance. It would seem wise, in the interest of personnel retention, to plan better housing for employees.
Operational facilities will be needed near the point where the Highway crosses the meridian of longitude 141° west of Greenwich. Here, despite amicable relationships which have always obtained between two of the great neighboring peoples of the North American continent, certain formalities of customs and immigration services are requisite. Here could well be stationed, also, representatives of the various agencies on both sides of the border which are concerned with forest fire prevention and control, wildlife management and protection, and similar matters. From them the tourist should be able to obtain courteous explanation of variations of pertinent regulations and general information which would add immeasurably to the comfort and success of his trip.
The tasks of the Alaska Fire Control Service and of the Alaska Game Commission will be increased greatly when the Highway is thrown open to public travel, particularly in the fields of protective patrol and of public relations and information. The personnel of both agencies will require to be augmented, and it is quite possible that additional district headquarters will be needed. Perhaps they will be established in relation to expected growth of communities; most certainly proximity to landing fields and radio facilities will be a factor in the choice of locations. In any event, rangers must be provided with living quarters and with office space in some degree.
It may also be necessary for the Office of Indian Affairs to station additional representatives in the territory opened by the Highway, perhaps not because of increased Native population but because of facilitated association of different races.
Vacation Facilities. Possible developments to serve future vacation needs in Alaska fall into two classes, those which afford general relaxation and recreation, and those which point toward some one particular form of recreation, such as hunting or fishing. This classification is upon the basis of major purpose; to a certain extent these purposes may overlap or both be included in a single area, which may also be a casual, overnight tourist stop.
Developments in the first class could well be almost communities, self-contained units in which necessary utilities would be included only as they effect comfort and enjoyment for the visitor, and so arranged as not to introduce a discordant note into the natural surroundings which will contribute so much to his spiritual rehabilitation.
Comfortable lodges or rustic inns are necessary, placed to take full advantage of lake or mountain views, adequate in size and appointments, but in keeping with the surroundings. Detached cottages or cabins offer more privacy to the less gregarious visitor, yet permit release from household tasks through the procedure of taking some or all meals at the lodge. Limited provision will be needed for the devotees of nature who will travel with and pitch their own canvas.
Recreational activities at these centers will not be especially diverse, but will center about the enjoyment of lakes or encircling heights. Boats on the lakes, hiking trails across valley floors and into the hills, perhaps even a stable of horses for ranging afield; these are major requisites for the program which will be pursued by most. Competitive summer sports are not lacking in Alaska, tennis is popular in Fairbanks and there are golf courses in the Territory, but one whose vacation happiness depended on taking part in activities so unrelated to his environment would be insensitive indeed to the natural advantages inherent to the site.
Utilitarian accessories will be required, but can be subservient to primary purpose and unobtrusive in the general picture. Provision must be made for servicing and repair of automobiles. Sale of foodstuffs and staples is indicated; the practice may be extended to include service to Native and other residents within a reasonable radius. Admitting the value of this function to the countryside plans for its inclusion should take into account subordination to the main purpose of the development.
Vacation areas of the second type will not attain a degree of development as pretentious as that required by the first. They will be regarded by most users only as conveniences incident to pursuit of favored pastime with rod or gun. The fisherman or hunter asks only a place to park his car, to bed down, and to obtain those meals which he does not choose to prepare by his own camp fire. More than these elemental facilities will be provided, mainly because the sites will also serve to some extent as stopping places for the tourist whose concern in Alaskan travel is not alone to reach the spots where grayling course the streams and moose stand knee-deep in the marshy pools.
Development of these secondary spots will perhaps be more closely akin to that which characterized the old-time Alaska roadhouse than any other which will arise along the roads. The "general-store" theme is here admissible to a greater degree than at areas of the first type, both because of the need filled and because the proprietor of one of them, unblessed with the volume of business enjoyed by more elaborate establishments, will require to augment his cash receipts.
Roadside Overnight Stops. The greatest obstacle to tourist travel to Alaska as soon as artificial restrictions imposed by war are relaxed, greater even than highway conditions between Edmonton and Dawson Creek, is the complete absence of facilities for the accommodation of travelers along the way. As has been implied, this deficiency probably will not be remedied until after the war, as resources of the nation are currently dedicated, and with good reason, to prosecution of the tasks essential to winning an early and advantageous peace. Plans must be laid, however, so that facilities can be made available, with as little inconvenience as possible, to the tourist influx which will stream upon the wilderness trail, full force and eager, without awaiting replacement of age-deteriorated tires or of automobiles rendered less dependable through prolonged inaction.
In planning stopover units for rural or sylvan settings, too close an association with distracting elements should be avoided, and an atmosphere of quiet serenity encouraged. Advantages of a wayside lodge, so placed that its porches afford sunset views across a calm, unruffled lake, are easily recognized.
Bodies of water are always recognized as assets to recreation, whether as the scene of active sport or for quiet contemplation. They are plentiful in the Tanana Valley. Lakes and ponds so dominate the aspect in the vicinity of Tetling and Northway that much of the charm ordinarily held is lost. To come upon a sparkling lake after miles of dusty, spruce channeled road is a surprise and joy; to drive mile after mile in constant sight of thousands of such lakes renders them commonplace. Many of the ponds in this region are unfortunately so shallow as to freeze solidly during the long winter, and so are almost devoid of fish.
The quality of sport fishing in Alaskan waters has received such favorable publicity that many tourists may be expected to carry tackle readily available for use. The head of the family will be more apt than not to desire to try his luck after the evening meal. Because of this, the lodge or camp site should be selected, if possible, with relation to a lake which bears fish of respectable proportions within its waters as well as enjoyable views over and beyond them.
Along the part of the Alaska Highway which lies west of the 141st meridian there are no examples of the superlative scenery, intimate or distant, which occasionally greets the eye in the Territory. Thus there is no particular spot which asserts itself as a "natural" for purposes of the overnight stop.
It is therefore possible to select stopping places on the basis of convenient travel distance, making sure that they are pleasantly, if not spectacularly situated.
Types of accommodations proposed should reflect the economic status and normal habits of life of the expected users. Because of the length of the trip and its consequent cost, it may be assumed that any group of tourists to Alaska will include more persons from the upper levels of income than a similar group which essays much less extensive travel in the States. Most of those in the group will expect to find and to pay for accommodations of somewhat better nature than would suffice for an average tourist in the States. For the majority of Alaskan visitors it will be well to provide lodges of a type similar to that which has been indicated for vacation use of the first class, although of somewhat less capacity. Comfort and harmony with surroundings should be stressed in the design.
Lodge facilities should sometimes be supplemented by simple, detached cabins, suitable for occupancy by those who will wish to spend less for shelter than persons who occupy hotel rooms in the lodge. Sites should be provided for those who like and who travel so equipped, to pitch their own camps. As a matter of control, indiscriminate activities of this nature along the way should not be permitted. Provision for camping should be made in designated grounds, located as carefully as inns or lodges with respect to recreational opportunities and scenic surroundings, supplied with potable water, and equipped with community sanitary facilities. For ease of administration and operation, lodges and camp grounds may well be located close to, but not within sight of each other.
Allied Facilities. If travel over the highways of Alaska reaches a volume greater than foreseen, it may appear advisable to encourage installation of roadside restaurants, serving noonday lunches and evening meals to travelers who wish to drive on through the long summer hours of daylight before pausing for the night. Whether this procedure will be required depends somewhat upon the disposition of hostels. If they are to be of considerable capacity and widely spaced, intermediate roadside restaurants will be a necessity. If the overnight stops are to be of less capacity and consequently closer together, no further provision of meal stops is involved. It is suggested that first attention be given to inauguration of combination facilities for meals and lodging, and that action on special restaurants be deferred until a specific need has been demonstrated.
Gasoline Stops. The situation as to installation of stations for the special purpose of dispensing motor fuels and oils is similar. Both primary and secondary overnight stops will necessarily include minor service stations. Attention to the gasoline supply each time that pause is made for meals or for lodging will certainly preclude the possibility of running out of fuel, unless the traveler speeds beyond reasonable limits.
View Overlooks. At points of particular scenic, scientific, historical, or other interest, a chance should be provided for vehicles to pull out of the traffic lanes and stop by the roadside, permitting to occupants of the cars an unhurried and carefree opportunity to enjoy sights of nature or reminders of past human activities. This chance would be afforded by simple lateral extensions of the road surface, safeguarded by railings or ramparts when necessary, and so arranged that free vision along the road in both directions is made possible for a driver leaving or entering the highway. A typical facility of this kind is included among those which are suggested in figure 61.
Impressive views will be obtained from the larger bridges, because of elevation of the bridge floor above the general level and because river valleys at right angles with the highway admit of greater perspective. Danger attendant upon the practice of stopping within the limits of a bridge, to gaze or to photograph, is apparent. Consideration should be given to the installation of pull-off spaces as closely related as may be to those bridges from which the best outlooks are afforded.
Signs and Markers. No incidental appurtenance contributes more to appreciation by the tourist than the sign along the highway. The value of the mile-posting service rendered by the Alaska Road Commission has been recognized previously. Signs along the Richardson are admirable in that each one indicates the distance to one or more nearby points as well as the cumulative miles from the termini. Initiation of a concerted program of mile-posting has already been discussed.
There will be particular need at road junctions and intersections for directional signs listing the points reached by each branch and their distances. It would be unfortunate if these necessary adjuncts to travel were allowed to develop, without logic or good planning, as the nondescript assemblages of information which are too often evident at crossroads in the States. Thought should be given to the formulation of standards for unobtrusive yet effective directional signs. Designs for these and for other needed signs should recognize the lawless tendency of bearers of firearms afield to utilize road signs as targets. Enameled metal, otherwise suitable, is revealed as not to be recommended for sign purposes in Alaska.
The tourist whose interest causes him to pause beside the highway in one of the pull-off spaces provided is deserving of recompense in the form of information concerning that which he has paused to contemplate. He should not be forced to perusal of a map to determine what river he has just crossed, or which mountain it is that dominates the horizon. Geological formations of special interest deserve description in simple language, understandable to the lay observer. Unusual stands of timber and other botanical displays worthy of note are doubly significant to the traveler if he is able to learn something of what he is perceiving at the time of perception. The list of phenomena subject to sign interpretation could be extended indefinitely. It is enough to say that preparation of the text matter of such interpretive signs should be left in the hands of someone who can be confident of the technical authenticity of the information conveyed, and is yet able to keep in mind the non-technical background of the readers who will profit most from reading the signs.
Any general policy governing the installation of interpretive or commemorative signs should be based upon three theses; (1) that signs should be erected only where there is something really worth showing, (2) that where signs are justified, opportunity should be provided for travelers to read without endangering themselves or others by stopping on the highway, and (3) that any view or interest point which deserves a pull-off space for inspection also merits an explanatory presentation. Wherever it is possible, each stopping-place should be provided with a supply of potable water and simple toilet facilities. Thirst and other importunities of the body are seemingly accentuated by alighting after protracted periods of riding.
The injurious effects of unrestricted advertising sign programs along the highways are too generally realized to require further comment. Many of the states have spent large sums to allay an evil which has been allowed to develop unchecked through lack of understanding of its undesirable characteristics and potentialities. The roadsides of Alaska are singularly free from advertising because of the commendable attitude of the Alaska Road Commission toward such activities. It is to be hoped that the condition will continue as use becomes heavier.
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATIONS. Wording of the original order of July 20, 1942, withdrawing the lands along the Alaska Highway defines its tenure as "pending definite location and construction of the Canadian-Alaskan Military Highway." It is assumed that the withdrawal, perhaps decreased in width, will remain effective for some time. In this period developments through private enterprise will be impossible, precluding advance provision of facilities to serve the traveling public.
As a temporary expedient pending erection of more permanent and suitable structures, the suggestion has been made that construction camps used by the contractors for the Highway be operated as lodging and meal stops for tourists. These camps, spaced at intervals averaging about 25 miles, will have no presently contemplated use after the period of military supervision, although it is understood that specific buildings in certain camps which lend themselves well to incorporation into operating facilities needed by the Army will be utilized for that purpose. Other camps may be required for use elsewhere and removed before the Highway is opened to public travel.
Wide variation is evident in the camps, although they resemble basically the portable type used by the Civilian Conservation Corps, but shelter about half as many persons. Construction was often of unseasoned, rough-dimensioned, locally-produced lumber. Some were winterized, to an extent, others not at all. The camps most recently built, as well as many of those used by contractors for allied installations which followed the road, contained buildings of more finished character. A typical camp included four barracks, mess-hall and kitchen, contractor's office, and combination office and quarters for the supervising personnel.
Water supply was in keeping with the temporary nature of the camps, although wells were drilled in at least two locations. Tank wagon haulage to elevated tanks was more commonly used to provide water for cooking, bathing, and laundry purposes. Use of pit latrines was almost universal. The base camp, three-fourths of a mile south of Tok Junction and longer used than most of the field quarters, boasted somewhat better construction, including water supply and sewage disposal systems. Perhaps these utilities might be converted to the temporary use of any community which may arise at the road intersection north of them.
Although selection of camp sites was primarily upon the basis of convenience to the work project, they were often installed in the most scenic spot to be found along the road within the confines of the residency or contract unit.
The use of such camps as still remain in place, for feeding and lodging the tourist public, must be regarded as a makeshift device, unsatisfactory at best. The expense of conversion to this use would be considerable, and complete rehabilitation would be needed in many cases. It would seem much wiser to discourage travel over the Alaska Highway until it is possible to develop certain widely-spaced, selected units of those planned for the eventual program. Failing that, educational programs should be planned and set in motion as soon as possible, to acquaint potential tourists with the true state of affairs, including not only the condition of the Alaska Highway, but also the location and condition of all the connecting links of the Territorial road system, the availability of food, lodging, gasoline and repairs, and the cost of services and supplies as compared with prices in the States. As long as war conditions pertain, these information programs would necessarily be subject to acceptance by the War Department as to initiation and content. Since time is ample, they should be designed to bring to future tourists a comprehensive understanding of the points at issue, but in a gradual manner, so as not to confuse them by a sudden and all-embracing burst of controverting data.
This does not mean to say that Alaska is not a wonderful country, that the costs of the trip in time, physical comfort, and money will not be amply repaid in memories which will be cherished so long as reason remains. It does mean that the traveler should be made aware in advance of what these costs will be, as well as of the wonders to be seen, so that he may budget his resources of time, funds, and strength to permit the extraction of every last possible pleasurable experience from the journey. Incalculable harm will be done unless steps are taken, in sufficient season before the Highway is opened, to refute the erroneous impressions which rainbow-hued presentation of travel conditions have engendered in the public mind.