Tourism in Katmai Country
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KatmaiLand, Inc. purchased the Katmai concession from Wien in October 1982. The newly-organized company, which changed its name to Katmailand the following year, was headed by Raymond F. Petersen, son of the former NCA president. The new concessioner undertook several building projects. The largest of these was the concession employee complex which was built in 1984-85, replacing the former tent camp. In 1986, budget cuts forced the NPS to drop its interpretive program on the Valley tour; the concessioner agreed to provide the service. Ongoing conflicts have taken place in recent years between Katmailand and the park over access to the Kulik Lake airstrip. Recent years have also witnessed a dramatic increase in visitation to Brooks Camp. The conflicts brought on by those visitors brought management pressure to concessioner and agency alike.

Construction Activities at the Camps

KatmaiLand Inc. (known as Katmailand Inc. after May 1983) has owned the concession contract for Katmai National Park and Preserve since November 1982. Under the control of its new operators, the Katmai camps have witnessed a substantial amount of growth, both in the physical development of the camps and in the number of visitors attracted to them.

Much of the camps' physical growth, of course, was mandated by the terms of the 1981 concession contract. The pact called for the construction of the employee housing area as well as the Brooks Lodge dining room addition during 1983, and the following year it required the construction of a new store and lounge at Brooks Camp, along with a kitchen and dining room facility at Grosvenor Camp. Lacking sufficient capital to undertake such a project, the Petersens applied for, and received, a $1.1 million bond through the Alaska Industrial Development Authority. [1]

With financial backing in hand, the new owners wasted little time in proceeding with construction plans. Design plans for the various buildings to be included in the employee housing complex were completed by November 1982. The National Park Service, for its part, followed quickly with an archeological survey. [2] But beginning in March 1983, the project was delayed for a year because of legal difficulties arising from the Melgenak Native claim. [3] Construction finally got underway in the spring of 1984, and by the end of the season Katmailand had nearly completed twelve new employee cabins. The cabins were readied for occupancy the following summer. The project cost totalled $350,000, less than two-thirds of what Wien had estimated [4]v

Other building projects were also begun in 1984. At Brooks Camp, most of the work on a dining-room expansion was completed. At Grosvenor Camp construction began on a new kitchen/dining area and generator house, designed to replace the old tar paper cook house/dining room and generator house which guests had used since the camp was constructed in 1950. These projects were completed in the summer of 1985. [5] Construction of a large Katmailand warehouse began that same summer, and toward the end of the 1985 season, the old employee tent cabins—the original Brooks Camp structures—began to be razed. The construction of the warehouse and the destruction of the tent complex were completed in the summer of 1986. The only concessioner buildings to be constructed since the completion of the warehouse was a small employee cabin located west of the nine-unit Skytel, and a third Panabode guest cabin at Grosvenor Camp. Both were erected in the summer of 1987. [6]

Since the Katmailand takeover, the National Park Service has built its own improvements to complement those of the concessioner. The only structures it has erected in the last eight years have been two tent frames erected at the north end of the row of seasonal residences, along with a low-roofed shed used for the storage of ranger equipment. An incinerator, located south of the NPS warehouse, was completed in 1991; two more tent frames were also erected that year. [7]

In order to allow visitors to watch the bears at Brooks Falls in greater safety, the agency constructed a bear viewing platform southeast of the falls in August 1982. The following year crews rerouted the trail to the platform from its former route along the riverbank to a more roundabout route. The new route followed the road from the floating bridge to a point just before the Valley Road-Brooks Lake junction; from there a new trail headed north to the falls. The former (riverbank) trail remains open but is used by few other than those interested in fishing. [8] No trails have been cut in the Brooks Camp area since 1983.

The quality of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes tour has remained high in recent years, and the legacy of substandard equipment and service from the final years of Wien operations has been all but eliminated. The concessioner had the luxury of operating new equipment—the 1982 Chevrolet Suburbans which Wien had purchased. As early as 1984, however, Katmailand began pressing the NPS to let it replace those vehicles with a larger, more rugged school bus. [9] Two years later, the agency relented and approved the use of a 4x4 bus carrying 29 passengers. The vehicle operated along the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes road beginning in 1987, and has been the primary carrier since then. One of the Chevrolet Suburbans was not removed from the park, but was held for supplemental use. [10]

Map 4. Brooks Camp Buildings (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

In the mid-1980s, steps were made toward constructing a pedestrian bridge at one of the Margot Creek crossings. In 1985, high water at the crossing forced almost half of the season's tours to turn back prematurely. Officials from the Federal Highway Administration, brought in to resolve the periodic high-water problem, suggested that the best long-term solution might be the permanent placement of a vehicle on the far side of Margot Creek and the construction of a pedestrian bridge spanning the creek. [11] Prodded by the Alaska Congressional delegation, the NPS's Denver Service Center staff further developed the idea of a pedestrian bridge. By March of 1987, plans called for field work at the bridge site that summer and construction of a pedestrian bridge the following year. But DSC's plan proved unworkable. Fortunately, the introduction of the high-clearance school bus eliminated the need for the pedestrian bridge, and the bridge idea was discarded. [12]

In the last eight years the interpretive program has continued in much the same fashion at Brooks Camp, with one significant exception. In the spring of 1986, the NPS informed Katmailand that it would no longer be able to provide a naturalist guide to give an interpretive talk on the bus tour from Brooks Lodge to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Budget cutbacks forced the change. The concessioner, which was informed of the move just a month before the season began, was understandably upset and railed, without success, to have the service restored. The Service, lacking other alternatives, agreed to train the three recently-hired drivers as tour guides, and the drivers learned their new duties sufficiently well that tour visitors were generally pleased with the new arrangement. [13] By the following spring, the agency recognized that it would be unable to re-establish service that season and was so discouraged over future prospects that it discussed the alternative of amending the concession contract to include tour guiding. Although the contract was not amended until the spring of 1990, the concessioner has provided tour guiding services each year since 1986. [14]

Kulik Lake Airstrip Access Questions

When KatmaiLand, Inc., took over Wien's interests in the Katmai camps in late 1982, part of the purchase price included the patented property at the western end of the airstrip, as well as the public airport lease covering the east end. Shortly after he purchased the airstrip, new owner Raymond F. Petersen stated his intended use of the airstrip, noting that "The portion of the airport under lease will be operated in conformance with the provisions of the [1974] BLM lease. The portion of the airstrip that is owned by KatmaiLand Inc. will be closed to the public and will be marked accordingly." He passed that information on to the publishers of the Alaska supplement to the Airman's Information Manual. [15] NPS and KatmaiLand representatives, drawn together to update the language in the 1974 lease, attempted to further clarify the public's access to the eastern half of the airstrip by eliminating the lease clause that dealt with emergency use of the airstrip. The elimination of that clause, however, may have been variously interpreted by the two parties; the NPS, at any rate, did not sign it. [16]

In 1986, however, Katmailand reneged on its promise to uphold its provisions of the 1974 lease. Jim Riehle, a U.S. Geological Survey employee, called Petersen to request permission to land. He did so because he was flying an Argosy, a plane which needed at least 3500 feet of runway, too much for the public half of the strip. [17] According to Riehle, Petersen told him that the entire strip was private and that use without permission would be trespass. Petersen protested because he had been advised that allowing public use of the strip would expose him to liability problems. [18] Riehle then called Loren Casebeer, who allowed Riehle to use the airstrip as requested, and the geologist did so without difficulty. In retrospect, it appears that neither party was properly upholding the provisions of the 1974 lease. Because of the disparity of opinions brought forth, the incident raised legal questions once thought resolved. [19]

After hearing Riehle's complaint, Service officials inquired into the legalities of the situation, and insisted that the eastern half of the airstrip was available for public use. Petersen, however, renewed his claim that the airstrip was private. Several more intimidating encounters took place that summer, and early in the 1987 season as well; in a mid-September 1986 incident, a Naknek pilot was threatened by a Katmailand employee. [20]

The difference of opinion caused park personnel to seek legal advice in the matter. The regional Division of Lands requested the opinion of the Solicitor's Office. The resulting opinion reaffirmed the public's right to use its half of the strip. Furthermore, the Service had other grounds for canceling the Katmailand lease. First, the lessee had not paid its $10 annual rental fee since 1979, and was thus guilty of violating the lease payment provisions. Also, the lessee's attempted restriction of public use violated the Airport and Airway Improvement Act, which obligated the lessee to maintain the strip for public use as well as its own. [21]

Ray Bane, the new superintendent beginning in August 1987, had several options regarding how to handle the airport lease. Had he chosen to, he could have rejected the lease outright. His primary concern, however, was that the public should be guaranteed access, free of impediments or harassment. [22]

Petersen had been apprised in March 1987 that the lease was technically invalid, both because the lease fee had not been paid and the lease had not been transferred. Perhaps because he realized the shakiness of his legal status, he did not dispute the findings of the park attorneys. Shortly afterwards the language in the Alaska supplement, requiring pilots to obtain permission to land at the airstrip, was modified to allow landings on the public half of the strip. [23]

Katmailand officials, understandably, were less than satisfied at the legal outcome of the airport lease case. Their goal throughout the proceedings had been to close the airstrip to outside users, and they were still concerned about potential liability problems. They also had no intention of abandoning the lease, so they embarked on a third alternative. Beginning in the summer of 1987, they began to speak with NPS officials about a possible land trade. [24]

In the spring of 1988, they presented an offer to give 39.495 acres of their airport land in return for 29.972 acres owned by the Park Service. The land they hoped to obtain came in two portions: a 20.264-acre parcel which consisted of the eastern half of the airstrip, along with another 9.708-acre parcel encompassing Kulik Cove, the embayment north of Kulik Lodge, and at the mouth of Kulik River, where Katmailand parked its planes and boats. The land offered to the Service was located in a long, narrow rectangle on the southwestern edge of the airstrip. [25]

Katmailand provided information on the proposed exchange to its attorneys who, in turn, discussed the matter with staff members in the office of Alaska Congressman Don Young. In late June, Ray F. Petersen, Katmailand president, discussed the matter with Ray Bane. He told the superintendent that he had two reasons for desiring the trade: to increase the value of his private land, and to control use of the airstrip. He mentioned that the NPS would be obtaining some ten acres more than it would be releasing, and that NPS title to lands south of the airport "would prevent Katmailand or any successor from developing or selling parcels of that land to other entities for remote cabin sites or development." [26]

Katmailand's desire to obtain the eastern half of the airstrip was obvious enough. In the Kulik Cove area, the parcel it hoped to receive would allow it to legitimize and broaden existing use patterns. In the 1950s, floatplanes flying in and out of Kulik used the exposed eastern shore area of Nonvianuk Lake. In the 1960s, however, the lodge owners bulldozed out a more protected docking area at the mouth of Kulik River. Soon afterwards, they shifted landing operations to the new site, and roughed out a road connecting the shallow cove area to the lodge.

Operation of a docking area at Kulik Cove may have been valid under Bureau of Land Management regulations, but when the area came under NPS ownership in 1978-80, new regulations forbade several aspects of that operation. Katmailand, for instance, stored equipment at the site, a practice not allowed under the provisions of its commercial use license. NPS officials were also concerned because of increasing environmental degradation in the cove area; that degradation included spilled fuel, disturbed archeological remains and trampled vegetation. Recognizing that continued use of Kulik Cove would result in ever-greater friction from park officials, the concessioner hoped to eliminate the problem by gaining title to the airplane docking area. [27]

Over the next several weeks, Bane discussed the proposed trade with staff at the park and the regional office. He responded to Petersen on September 2. Although he did not reject the trade outright, the tone of his letter implied that it was not in the best interests of the NPS. He noted that Katmailand was attempting to obtain lands that were either 1) available for public use as an airstrip, or 2) excellent habitat for sockeye salmon, brown bears, and other natural predators. In return, it was offering lands which had been heavily impacted by the construction of the airstrip, and which had suffered some limited impacts from past off-road vehicle use. Bane did not appear eager to give up public access to a "highly scenic area with excellent sport fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities." Bane further cautioned Petersen that any proposed exchanges involving NPS lands would require archeological surveys, public use surveys, and other data. An environmental assessment encompassing such data would probably be required. [28]

Interest in a trade languished until the summer of 1989. On August 10, representatives of Katmailand, the National Park Service, and Congressman Young's office met to discuss new aspects of a proposed trade. Among other options, Katmailand was considering the sale of Kulik Lodge. If that option were to be exercised, it wanted to perfect its access to the site to assure marketability. To do so, Katmailand expressed an interest in selling its airport property. In return, it hoped to retain an easement for its use for the entire length of the airstrip; it also hoped to obtain an easement for access from its lodge property north to Kulik Cove. To guarantee uniform standards for the airstrip, the company considered a cooperative agreement with the NPS covering its use and maintenance. As an added incentive, Katmailand was willing to trade away title to its Battle Lake camp, which was currently being operated by others under a rental agreement. [29]

Ray Bane, who was unable to attend the meeting, favored the easement idea. He showed little interest in Katmailand's offer of its Battle Lake property; instead he hoped that the company might offer its Nonvianuk property, or at least be able to guarantee to the Service that it would not be further developed. And he continued to insist that the public be allowed access to the airstrip. [30]

NPS and Katmailand representatives discussed the matter again in a November 15 meeting. Katmailand, by this time, was no longer interested in selling Kulik Lodge, but both sides still hoped to resolve the long-simmering airport issue. But because of liability concerns, Katmailand stonewalled any NPS suggestions to share in airstrip maintenance. The company was also unwilling to accept any arrangement in which the entire strip would be open to public use. Given those differences, the two parties realized that they could not accomplish a mutually satisfactory exchange regarding the airstrip. Katmailand still hoped to obtain an easement for the use of Kulik Cove and access to the lodge, but by January 1990 even that idea had been dropped. [31]

Meanwhile, friction over the use of the airstrip continued. In 1988 and 1989, Katmailand officials were as adamant as they had been in 1986-1987 that the entire airstrip remain off-limits to the public, and park staff continued to receive reports of harassment from members of the public using the eastern half of the strip. Katmailand staff continued to give visitors the clear impression that they were unwelcome in the area. One pilot, acting on his own, even instituted a $100 fee for use of the company's portion of the airstrip. [32]

Since 1989, relations between the two parties have been relatively peaceful. Liability problems, which lay behind much of the contention between the two parties, have been partially addressed through revised language in the Alaska supplement used by the state's pilots, and by the clear delineation on the ground of the boundary between the public and private portions of the airstrip. No incidents of harassment have been reported for several years. The roles, moreover, of the two parties have been more clearly resolved. The NPS now recognizes that Katmailand's aircraft can use the entire strip if they so choose, and Katmailand realizes that the public has the right to use the eastern half of the strip.

Beyond the veneer of amicability, however, the issues which have divided Katmailand and the NPS on the lease issue have by no means disappeared. Katmailand staff still hope to restrict public use of the strip; its strategy in attaining that goal has been to abrogate its jurisdiction over the eastern half of the strip, and to treat it as if it were unimproved public land. Katmailand, in recent years, has maintained the western half of the runway and a small portion of the public strip; it has left the eastern end in a state of benign neglect. Visitors are instructed to park their planes at the strip's eastern end. The NPS, titleholder of the eastern half of the airstrip, is free to maintain it, but has thus far been uninterested in doing so. [33]

Effects of Brooks Camp Visitor Growth

In recent years, the NPS has dealt with an accelerating rate of visitor development throughout the park. As is elaborated upon in Chapter 7, the growth in fishing activities has been so vigorous that several drainages demand monitoring, study, and possible regulation. But Brooks Camp has proven so popular, and so many competing demands have grown in such a limited area, that problems related to its management have commanded much of the park's personnel and budget. [34] Issues that have most occupied Katmai management in the mid- to late 1980s include the late-season behavior of bears and the effect of human populations on that behavior, and the ecological and psychological effects created by an increasing number of Brooks Camp day users.

In the early 1980s, the season at Brooks Camp ran from June 1 to September 10. The length of season had remained static for much of the past three decades, and had not been lengthened because little demand existed for lodging beyond those dates. [35]

By 1981, Wien management had begun putting pressure on NPS officials to lengthen the season, reasoning that the addition of a single day to the 100-day season could represent an increase of as much as three percent to gross receipts (and even more to net profit). National Park Service officials tried to sympathize with their plight. As guardian of the park's resources, however, they were more concerned about the camp's bear problems. They were so worried about bear-human conflicts, in fact, that they considered moving the camp away from the mouth of Brooks River. [36] Having had a long history of bear confrontations in the area, agency officials were understandably skittish about extending visitation into mid-September, when bear populations along the beach and river were known to be numerous because of a late salmon run.

To gain more information on problems taking place throughout the park, NPS officials undertook a major planning effort beginning in the spring of 1982. This effort, which included a series of newsletters and a plea for public involvement, also took place in each of the other Alaska park units that were established or expanded by ANILCA. The region-wide planning process lasted until the fall of 1986 and resulted in the a series of environmental assessments, general management plans, wilderness suitability reviews, and land protection plans. For each of the affected parks, a draft general management plan (GMP) was ready in March 1985, a revised draft in December, and a final plan in November 1986. [37]

The Katmai GMP emphasized resource protection and called for few new developments. The draft plan, which was particularly sensitive to the clash of resources at Brooks Camp, called for the camp's eventual relocation. Later versions, however, called for a stabilization of activities at the camp, and recognized that more data had to be gathered about those nature of bear-human interactions before a move could proceed. In addition, the final plan demanded that a Development Concept Plan (DCP) be prepared that will "address the need for, size, and location of visitor facilities" in the camp. [38]

In 1985, the park superintendent agreed to sponsor a study aimed at gathering data on bear-human relationships. It was directed by Dr. Barrie Gilbert, a biologist at Utah State University, and carried out over a three-year period. [39] In order to provide late-season data for the study, Superintendent Morris allowed the lodge to extend its season an extra week in 1986, and later extended the 1987 season a week as well. The study, when completed, showed that the likelihood of public safety problems was likely to increase if a sizable number of visitors frequented Brooks Camp during the end-of-season period. Specifically, Gilbert noted that the number of bears frequenting the Brooks River significantly increased between early and mid-September. Equally important, bears frequenting the camp late in the season tended to be less habituated to human activity than those seen in July and August. Therefore, they were more aggressive and demanding than those seen earlier in the season. [40]

Given the results of that study, Superintendent Bane ordered the concessioner to close Brooks Lodge on September 10, beginning in 1988. The concessioner loudly protested, but Bane held firm, and the September 10 closing date is still in effect. Much to the chagrin of the concessioner, Bane did not order the campground to be shut down the same day. The primary reason for his decision was that public use closures require a public comment period and other special procedures. A lack of time did not allow him to implement those procedures. Bane also knew that mid-September campers at Brooks River would be relatively small in number, for two reasons: the cold, rainy weather and the sharp increase in air fares to Katmai after the lodge closed. Bane's supposed inconsistency, therefore, was well justified. [41]

The other trend, the increase in day use visitors to Brooks Camp, has been caused by two factors: the increase of one-day fly-in fishermen and other day-trippers during the decade, and the decision to open up the camp as a major package tour destination. The increase in day use has, in turn, created myriad demands on a limited area. The extent of those pressures has been recognized only recently, and a mechanism intended to mitigate the scale of conflicting land-use demands is being developed in the Brooks River Area Development Concept Plan.

As Chapter 7 notes in greater detail, fly-in fishing began on a local scale in the 1950s. For the next two decades, most of those who stayed at the Katmai camps walked or boated to their fishing grounds. (A few of the wealthier fishermen chartered planes, but most stayed within 20 or 30 miles of their camp.) But in the 1970s, fly-in vacations began to become more common. Guests at the Katmai camps began to demand flights out to remote rivers and lakes for a day's fishing, and guests at lodges located up to 150 miles away began to demand visits to the park. Guests at the Katmai camps, particularly those staying at Kulik, began to demand fly-out trips as early as 1974, but the popularity of fly-out fishing did not really take hold until the early 1980s. (American Creek, located at the western end of Lake Coville, was a primary destination of fly-out fishermen in the early days.) [42] Because of its status as a national park unit, and its fame as a fishing destination, Katmai became a major destination for visitors from resorts throughout the region.

As the tourist node of the park, Brooks Camp was a major point of interest of early fly-in day visitors, who were attracted by the site's bear watching opportunities, the beauty of Brooks Falls and the excellent fishing along Brooks River. The popularity of fly-in trips exploded during the 1980s. Statistics note that in 1981, three commercial use licensees brought only about sixty day-trippers to the Brooks Camp area, while eight years later some sixteen licensees flew more than 1850 visitors to the camp. [43] As noted in Chapter 7, the popularity of fly-in trips has by no means been limited to the Brooks Camp area. Despite the impressive growth of other Katmai destinations, however, the mouth of Brooks River has continued to be the park's largest point of interest for day visitors.

A major part of that growth, beginning in 1988, has been the package tour. Discussion of such large-scale tours apparently began in the summer of 1987, and by fall the agency and concessioner had discussed the need for a second bus on Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes tours the following summer. [44] The two largest tour operators in the state, Westours and Princess Tours, wanted to market a Katmai tour. They approached Katmailand in hopes of working out a deal using the company's planes as well as its ground transportation. Katmailand, recognizing the tour operators' flexibility, knew that the tour operators would contract with another carrier if agreeable terms were not worked out. Therefore, they cooperated in providing a new, day-long tour which began in the summer of 1988. [45]

The tour, which was organized by officials at the new Quinnat Landing Hotel in King Salmon, began with an overnight stay at the hotel and featured an early morning Katmai Air flight to Brooks Camp. After a short stay at the camp, visitors boarded buses and spent the next several hours taking the Valley tour. After returning to camp, tour patrons remained for dinner at the lodge. Most returned to King Salmon that evening; a few, however, remained overnight as part of a three-day tour package. [46]

Katmai Air, which had been operating since 1974 and become part of Katmailand since 1982, substantially expanded its operations in 1988. Katmai Air became the primary operator between King Salmon and Brooks Camp when it ceased the nine-year lease arrangement it had had with Peninsula Airways. [47] The popularity of the one-day package tour helped increase the company's total of passenger-miles; on some days, it hauled more than one hundred passengers from King Salmon to the camp complex. Since 1988, Katmai Air has gained competitors on the King Salmon-Brooks Camp route, yet it is still the most popular carrier used to fly visitors to Brooks Camp. [48]

Despite early fears that the surge in visitors would create demands for a second bus, expenditures for such equipment have thus far been avoided. In 1986 the concessioner seldom carried more than twenty people per day. Therefore, the amount of space provided by the Suburbans as well as the school bus was enough that demand had to double before new equipment would be necessary. The day tours in the late 1980s, however, have proven so successful that a new vehicle purchase has been considered. The school bus has been filled to capacity on an increasing number of days; this has caused several independent travellers to lodge an increasing number of complaints because of their inability to take the Valley tour. In 1990, to accommodate the larger demand, the concessioner occasionally operated one or two vans as well as the school bus on busy summer days. [49]

With growth at Brooks Camp has come the demand for more regulations. The concentration of people there vis a vis the rest of the park has long concerned planners; efforts were made during the MISSION 66 planning process, as well as the Master Plan process of the early 1970s, to shift new development to another area. By the mid-1970s, park officials had begun to worry that the summertime visitor-use levels were impinging on the health of the local bear and fish populations. [50]

By the early 1980s, a broader concern was registered among park officials who encountered a wide variety of public use problems, ranging from the scarcity of firewood to complaints of noise pollution in the Brooks Camp area. [51] These problems began to worsen when guests staying at lodges outside the park began to arrive in increasing numbers. As early as 1985, park officials recognized that the camp was becoming too crowded, [52] and in the late 1980s the advent of tours from the major tour operators exacerbated the worsening situation. One of the worst of those problems related to Brooks Camp air traffic.

Ray Bane, who assumed the superintendency in 1987, vowed to meet those problems head-on. Noting that "existing facilities in the Brooks River/Camp area are being stressed by visitor uses and demands," he initiated a series of management actions designed to ease the strain of overcrowding. Bane required that all pilots fly at least 1000 feet over the Brooks Camp area; he prohibited step-taxiing and takeoffs within 200 feet of the beach; and he imposed, and enforced, a limit of one fish per day on Brooks River. He also protested the concessioner's use of its camp tractor (a motorized luggage carrier with large, knobby tires). Recognizing the machine's tendency to trample vegetation, broaden paths and expose subsurface archeological remains, Bane limited the number of paths on which it could run and imposed additional restrictions on its use. [53]

Because of the increasing popularity of the park in the last decade, the concessioner has put intermittent pressure on agency management to enlarge the size of its facilities. But it realizes that much of Brooks Camp overlays a world-class archeological site; therefore, it has opted against constructing any new buildings which would entail a long, exhaustive survey and excavation process. The most expeditious plan, therefore, has called for the addition of a second story to the Skytel. [54]

The park's General Management Plan, which was finalized in 1987, directed that the current level of Brooks Camp development not be expanded until a Development Concept Plan is completed. A second DCP for the camp is currently being studied by NPS officials (the first was worked on in 1979-1982). One alternative within that plan would allow new NPS housing and a visitor center; one would add new concessioner cabins and the NPS visitor center while reducing the number of NPS residences; and the two remaining alternatives would raze all improvements, by both the concessioner and the NPS, north of Brooks River. [55]

National Park Service officials since the 1970s have recognized that Brooks Camp offers some of the greatest resource conflicts in Katmai. While the site may have been appropriate for a small tent camp, resource managers have increasingly recognized it as being unsuitable for a broad tourist population. They also recognize that the juxtaposition of bears and humans at Brooks Camp may well result in a series of encounters causing injury or death in one or both participants. It does not follow, however, that moving the camp will necessarily take place. Entrenched elements—the concessioner, sportsman's groups, influential clients, and some members of the NPS hierarchy—are strongly opposed to any change in the Brooks Camp status quo.

The results of the DCP process have not yet been finalized. Regardless of its outcome, however, it is unlikely that the existing conflicts will diminish any time soon. If the DCP recommends the removal of Brooks Camp, the political process that will likely ensue may escalate into major confrontations within the agency. If it recommends the status quo, however, the existing resource conflicts will only worsen in the future. When viewed in retrospect, the present DCP may likely be seen as one of the opening volleys in a long-term engagement.

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Last Updated: 13-Oct-2004