January 20, 2011
Kris Fister, (907) 683-9583
The National Park Service (NPS) is holding an open house in Fairbanks on Friday, January 28 as part of the public involvement process examining approaches to recover more of the cost of the mountaineering program in Denali National Park and Preserve. The open house is taking place from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center (in the classroom) located at 101 Dunkel Street.
Beginning at 6:00 p.m., Denali staff will give a 30-40 minute presentation on the mountaineering program and fee. Official public testimony will not be taken during the open house, but park staff will be available before and after the presentation to provide additional information and answer questions.
Currently each climber of Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker pays a cost recovery mountaineering use fee of $200. Income from this special use fee helps fund some of the cost of the mountaineering program, including preventative search and rescue (PSAR) education, training for rescue personnel, positioning of patrol/rescue personnel (including volunteers) at critical high altitude locations on the mountain, the CMC (human waste) program, and administrative support. Since the cost recovery fee was implemented in 1995, the number of fatalities and major injuries has decreased significantly. This is directly attributable to the increased educational and PSAR efforts made possible through the cost recovery program.
When the special use fee was initially established it covered approximately 30% of the cost of this specialized program. Even though the fee was increased from $150 to $200 in 2005, current fee revenue only covers 17% of the cost. McKinley/Foraker climbers make up less than ½ of 1 percent of the park's visitors, and in 2011 Denali will expend approximately $1,200 in direct support of each permitted climber. The average cost per visitor for all other visitors is approximately $37. In recent years, the park has diverted funds from other critical park programs in order to fully fund the mountaineering program.
The NPS is seeking ideas regarding two key questions:
1) Is the current mountaineering program the most cost effective, efficient and safe program we can devise?
2) How much of the cost should be recovered from users, and what options are there for how those costs can be distributed?
Comments from the public will be accepted through January 31, 2011. Comments may be submitted via email to: DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov or faxed to (907) 683-9612. They may also be sent to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755.
Additional information on the mountaineering program and the mountaineering special use fee is available on the park website at www.nps.gov/dena.