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Recreational Resources of the Alaska Highway and Other Roads in Alaska







The Allure of Alaska

Means of Access to Alaska

Major Roads of Alaska

Provisions for Recreational Use

A Plan for Recreational Facilities

Putting the Plan into Effect

Recreational Resources of the Alaska Highway and Other Roads in Alaska
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For ease of reference, the basic assumptions, significant findings, and major recommendations of the Alaska Highway Land Planning Survey are here summarized. Embodied in the report will be found fuller and more extended discussions of premises which have been necessary, of circumstances and conditions which have been found to pertain, and of conclusions and recommendations which they have dictated.

Figure 2.—Forerunner of the tourist army.

BASIC ASSUMPTIONS. In considering probable future recreational use of Alaskan roads it has been necessary to take for granted that certain actions will be taken and operational policies followed, in the general course of affairs and regardless of recreational import. While recommendation as to the advisability of these actions and policies is beyond the scope and authority of this survey, they are so closely related to its subject as to warrant enumeration. It is assumed that:

1. The Alaska Highway of postwar years, through Canada and Alaska, will be maintained in no less passable condition than at present.

2. Approach roads from the United States through Canada to the Alaska Highway will be improved to standards comparable with those to which the Highway has been built, and will be so maintained.

3. Roadside accommodations will be provided by Canada which will be equivalent in quality and in distribution along the Highway and its approaches, to those which are recommended for Alaska by this report, and as soon available.

4. Mentasta Road and the Haines Cutoff will be brought to parity with through portions of the Alaska Highway, so far as ease of travel is concerned.

Figure 3.—Prewar Alaskan roadhouse.

5. The important roads of Alaska will be treated in some manner to alleviate the dust nuisance which now prevails.

6. Fast ferry service will be instituted between Prince Rupert and the head of the Lynn Canal, with such intermediate stops as may be required.

7. A coordinated system of bus lines will be inaugurated, placing common carrier travel to and over Alaskan roads on the same basis as similar travel in the United States.

8. Highway connection will be provided in the not too distant future between the Richardson Highway and the present park drive in Mount McKinley National Park.

Figure 4.—Tok Junction—1943.

SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS. Through study of field conditions certain facts have appeared and other conclusions been reached which are significant in that they affect recommendations for the use of lands adjacent to the highways for park and recreational purposes. Chief among these are that:

1. Major postwar value of the Alaska Highway will be as an integral part of the Territorial road system, and not as a parkway approach to Alaska. It does not pass through areas of superlative scenic value.

2. Solution of the tourist problem can not be limited to lands lying adjacent to the Alaska Highway alone, but must be extended to include the Richardson, Glenn, Edgerton, Steese, and other highways in similar coverage.

3. Communities may be expected to develop, particularly at junctions of the highways with each other and with existing and potential feeders. Primary probabilities are Glennallen, Tok Junction, and Delta Junction.

4. It will be unnecessary to set aside large tracts of land along the highways for purposes of protecting scenic, scientific or historical values, or for utilizing such values for recreational purposes and visitor accommodation. Control and precept are more required than sequestration.

5. At Mentasta Lake opportunity is offered near the road for the development of vacation-type facilities as contrasted with those for the utilitarian overnight stop, to serve both Alaskan and visitor.

6. Appropriate field quarters and working space will be required by agencies concerned with highway maintenance, land use, and tourist activities, particularly at the boundary on the 141st meridian.

7. Volume of expected recreational travel to Alaska by road can not be forecast with any degree of precision, because of various unknown factors. Supposing adherence to policies of action outlined, and basing expectancy of use upon known facts concerning recreational travel elsewhere, postwar years may see 40,000 tourists driving to Alaska.

8. As many as 8,000 tourists reaching Alaska annually by means other than private automobile will desire to utilize the highways for closer inspection of the Territory.

Figure 5.—Newly established roadhouse along the Glenn Highway.

9. The average stay of the tourist in Alaska, exclusive of travel in Alaskan waters, will be not less than 8 days. About half the nights will be spent in settled communities.

10. In view of the recent stimulation of interest in Alaska, tourist travel thereto will hardly await assurance that there are suitable stopping-places enroute. There are none now.

11. Construction camps which may remain along the Alaska and other highways are not well adapted for service as tourist stopping-places.

12. Provision of recreational accommodations through private enterprise ordinarily follows demonstrated travel beyond the capacity of existing facilities.

13. Deficiency of suitable accommodations, once travel has begun, will result in discouragement of future recreational travel.

14. To forestall the unfairness to Alaska of such inevitable discouragement of travel, provision of facilities should be a governmental obligation.

15. If they are so provided, responsibility for construction and administration should be allotted to some governmental agency, and arrangements for later operation should be perfected.

Figure 6.—A desirable site for overnight accommodations.

SUMMARIZED RECOMMENDATIONS. Upon the basis of assumptions and significant findings earlier noted, certain recommendations have been formulated with regard to protection of scenic, scientific, and historical values of the lands immediately adjacent to the Alaska system of highways, and proper utilization of these values for recreational purposes, including provision for visitor accommodation. These recommendations are that:

1. Withdrawal from entry be maintained temporarily over all lands now in public ownership within one-half mile of all the major Alaskan roads and within two miles of such spots along these roads as may appear to the General Land Office as apt locations of community growth.

2. A width of 300 feet on each side of the center line of traveled way of all roads be reserved as a right-of-way to protect scenic attractiveness, and that scenic easements be included in issuing patents to lands abutting the roads, when action of such nature is requisite to prevent unsightly results.

3. Definite plans for suitable development of potential community sites be prepared during the temporary withdrawal, so that civic progress may be guided by the General Land Office after relaxation of withdrawals. Glennallen, Delta Junction, and Tok Junction are suggested for first attention.

4. Development of communities along the highways be left to private initiative, but in general conformity with such plans as may be prepared. Until development by private enterprise has been stimulated it may be the part of wisdom to provide at Tok Junction from public funds stop-gap facilities such as are elsewhere recommended for non-community sites. At Delta Junction the nearby existing roadhouse may offer some degree of service; at Tok Junction there is nothing of the kind.

5. Major overnight tourist stopping-places in other than urban settings be established at intervals of about 35 miles along the Alaska Highway and other roads in the Territory except in locations where the anticipated need can be served adequately by roadhouses which are already functioning in a satisfactory manner.

Figure 7.—Sights like Worthington Glacier merit parking overlooks.

6. Secondary roadside stopping-places be developed at sites particularly adapted as centers for hunting and fishing while still serving, to lesser degree than the major stops, those whose interests lie primarily in sightseeing.

7. At major and secondary stopping-places the established right-of-way be increased as circumstances may indicate, for proper inclusion of required facilities and to provide a buffer strip to maintain scenic attractiveness.

8. Present plans for major and secondary stops be capable of later expansion to guest-capacities of 75 and 25 persons, respectively, even though immediate development to that extent may not seem necessary or expedient.

9. Provision be made for off-road parking in locations of significant scenic, scientific, or historic interest, and that interpretation by means of instructional markers be provided.

10. At Mentasta Lake an area of approximately 6,400 acres be set aside, entirely surrounding the lake, for development as a vacation center to accommodate a maximum of 250 visitors at one time.

11. The major stop at the Alaska-Yukon boundary (longitude 1410 west) be planned to include facilities for customs and immigration service and for other necessary activities of the two governments concerned, including housing of personnel.

12. In general, every third major overnight stopping-place, counting existing and probable communities as well as roadside stops, be planned for accommodation of bus passengers as well as of those who will be traveling by private automobile.

13. Public funds be sought, either through regular channels of legislative appropriation or under any possible postwar work program, for purposes of constructing facilities herein recommended for roadside accommodation of the traveler and for vacation use at Mentasta Lake.

14. Administration of all vacation and stop-over facilities on government lands along the highways of Alaska be vested in an appropriate governmental agency functioning in Alaska.

15. Operation of tourist facilities built and owned by the United States be placed for a reasonable annual fee in the hands of a quasi-public and limited-profit corporation, owned and managed by Alaskans, formed specifically for the purpose of furnishing these services, and returning to extension and improvement of plant all profits beyond an established fair return on stock investment.

16. Utilization of such construction camps as may remain on the Alaska Highway for tourist housing be disregarded if it is possible to postpone demand for travel opportunity until more suitable accommodations can be provided.

17. Legislation be enacted authorizing the Secretary of the Interior, as an interim measure, to lease, supervise the operation of, and later reclaim, selected sites for public accommodation along the highways of Alaska.

18. Programs for post-construction and maintenance of all roads in Alaska include the disposal of inflammable debris, further treatment of side-slopes and gutters, and selective cutting along the right-of-way.

19. A concerted and coordinated system of mileage marking be adopted for and applied to the Alaskan highway network, as a responsibility of the road-administering agency, and for the convenience of the using public.

20. The pattern of modern telephone communication currently available along the Alaska Highway be extended to include all roads which will serve as major arteries of tourist flow.

Figure 8.—The snow-capped Wrangells.

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Last Modified: Mon, Sep 6 2004 10:00:00 pm PDT

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