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After a careful tour of hotel-site potentials with the superintendent and concessioner Jim Galen, including a look at the Clearwater site—which was too distant and difficult of access—Vint chose the well drained plateau below the modern Eielson Visitor Center. Here was firm ground, expansive enough for a major development and easily reached from the route marked out for the park road. It offered excellent views of the mountain and its lesser companions, though Mount Mather was blocked by the near bulk of Copper Mountain.

Vint's general plan included a hotel at McKinley Station, the concessioner facility at Savage River (serving as base camp for east-end wilderness trips), and the Copper Mountain (Mount Eielson as of 1930) hotel deep within the park (with hiking and pack trips toward the mountain). This assemblage, based on the railroad and concessioner- provided access via the park road, offered the choice of short-term or long-term visits, and both sophisticated and rustic facilities to meet differing visitor demands.

Vint saw the inevitability of direct road access to the park, but correctly predicted that private-auto access lay far enough in the future that it need not complicate this first-stage development concept.

The ARC's pioneer construction techniques on the park road worried Vint. He wanted better engineering plans to avoid later rerouting, which would leave unsightly road scars. Neither eventuality came to pass. The road, essentially as built by the ARC (beyond Teklanika), is the road still used today. As noted above, Vint's recommendation to move headquarters back to McKinley Station was rejected by Director Albright.

With the completion of the proposed McKinley Station hotel, the railroad could abandon the Curry hotel as its passenger overnighting facility and rearrange train schedules to allow overnight visits to the park.

Air touring of the park, with its easily attained overviews of McKinley's vast landscapes and mountain architecture, appealed to Vint. He urged approval of a pending aviation permit and an adequate airfield. [18]

Wonder Lake still lay north of the park boundary when Vint was there, so he could not consider it as a hotel or lodge site. In 1929 the Copper Mountain area, with its views of McKinley and easy access to Muldrow Glacier and the range, formed the logical terminus of the park road. The boundary expansion of 1932 took in Wonder Lake, making the lake the logical terminus of the park road, and the preferred site for the interior-park hotel. The Copper Mountain/Mount Eielson site would become an intermediate viewpoint and concessioner camp, and, in later years, the site of an interpretive center.

Excepting that major variation, Vint's concept provided the park's planning frame for nearly 40 years. Lack of funds kept putting off construction of the Wonder Lake hotel/lodge, but it remained in the plans and was periodically revived as a hot project until about 1970.

Architectural rendering of the proposed Wonder Lake Lodge, 1935. NPS, Mount McKinley National Park Planning Concept, 1935, in DENA archives.

With the postwar advent of private-auto access (quite modest until 1972), auto campgrounds would replace the concessioner camps of the railroad era. The outermost of these auto-era campgrounds was established at Wonder Lake, at the south-end site originally reserved for the hotel/lodge.

In terms of actual visitor access and use, Vint's scheme—hinged on the park road, and adjusted for the 1932 boundary change, the failure to build an in-park hotel, and the onset of direct highway access—determined the park's essential infrastructure that is still in place today. In fact, terrain and the railroad determined the park entrance; terrain and in-park objectives determined the route of the park road. Vint's and subsequent planning simply embellished these determinants. Significant private-car access to the park since 1972 has determined all further adjustments, physical and operational. Terrain, transportation, and funding or lack thereof for alternate visitor-use sites will continue to dictate the substance of plans no matter how nicely phrased their rationale. The politics of preservation versus development will determine the real results of such plans. The park ideal will continue hostage so long as an inadequate single-option infrastructure constricts the mounting pressures of commercialization.

Director Albright and his associates in Washington endorsed the substance of Vint's report, the Director calling it "the most useful report that has yet been submitted on this park." [19] After a year's delay Albright visited the park in summer 1931. His appendicitis attack aborted his horse trip to hotel sites, but he flew over all of them, going on to Wonder Lake, which captured his imagination. Seeing it confirmed his intention to expand the park not only on the east end but also to include Wonder Lake and the buffering lands on the northwest boundary. He wanted the park road to extend to the lake and considered it a prime site for a fishing camp for visitors, perhaps even for the hotel. He liked Vint's hotel-site choice but counseled moving slowly for two reasons: First, the concessioner had been hard hit by the Depression-caused dearth of visitors. Thus, Jim Galen, president of the Mt. McKinley Tourist and Transportation Company, lacked finances to build an in-park hotel. Giving him use of the proposed hotel site for a temporary camp would help revive his fortunes, at the same time providing an immediate visitor facility in the heart of the park. Second, because the park was still in the pioneer stage of development such a sequence (camp then hotel) was appropriate. The temporary camp could be easily dismantled and the experience gained from its operation could prove useful for hotel planning. [20]

Map showing 1922 park addition. Kauffmann, Mount McKinley National Park, Map 2.

In another letter, Albright praised Vint's scenic "high line" routing of the park road between the Toklat forks, and the design by Vint's office of the East Fork bridge. Albright praised the park road:

Let me say also that I am very well pleased with the road that is being built in this park. It is frankly a pioneer highway for occasional use mainly by transportation buses. We will not live probably to see the time when many private automobiles will use this road. No other kind of a highway could have been justified in this park. I am not worried about curing the scar some decades hence. This country goes back to Nature about as fast as the Great Smokies. I flew over the park twice, and from the air the highway, except in the passes, is hardly traceable. So, as long as I am the Director of the Service, I shall hold to the present standards of highway building, except, of course, in the case of opportunities such as that you seized between the East Fork and main Toklat.

One more thing I am disposed to let the road be built on to Wonder Lake, provided, of course, we can get an addition to the Park to include the Lake. I want you to cover the country between your hotel site and Wonder Lake before the road gets too far over that way . . . . [21]

Both the 1922 and 1932 extensions of the park cited wildlife protection as their principal rationale. Secondarily, these extensions were proposed to protect key natural features (e.g., Wonder Lake in 1932) and to encompass lands critical to park administration, particularly on the east end.

In April 1921 Charles Sheldon had talked with Director Stephen T. Mather, Alaska Delegate to Congress Dan Sutherland, and representatives of the General Land Office, getting agreement from all of them that the original park boundary (running north-south near Sanctuary River) should be moved 10 miles east toward McKinley Station. [22] The 149th Meridian met this criterion and was chosen as the new north-south line at the park's east end. The headquarters relocation of 1925 would still be some two miles east and outside of the new boundary, but within the 1922 Executive Order withdrawal that protected the park entrance.

The Senate Committee report on the 1922 extension noted that the mountainous area east of the original park boundary, especially the headwaters of Riley and Windy creeks, were prime breeding grounds for Dall sheep and much frequented by caribou herds. [23] In an after-the-fact critique of the extension, Col. Frederick Mears, chairman of the AEC, wanted additional extensions to north, east, and southeast for still more protection of the game animals, which would be the primary attraction to tourists using the railroad. He warned that delay in moving the east boundary to Nenana River would cause the NPS untold grief by way of annoying and unsightly development in the park's forelands. [24]

As enacted, the January 30, 1922, extension took in the 10-mile strip east of Sanctuary River (but still west of Nenana River and the railroad), plus a narrow slice of land along the southeast boundary that captured the divide of the Alaska Range, giving that side of the park topographic definition. Even this extension was not without its opponents, who argued that further reservations around McKinley Park would deprive hunters and miners of choice land. [25] But the idea of capturing additional gamelands and the park's administrative forelands to the Nenana River, though delayed, would surface again.

The 1932 extension began with a report from Tom Vint to the Director in early 1930, following up on his just-completed planning report. Vint deplored the unnatural boundary formed by the straight line 149th Meridian, pushing instead for extension of protected lands to the natural boundary of the Nenana River. (This proposal revived the idea earlier expressed by Colonel Mears as he was completing construction of the Alaska Railroad.)

Because Governor Parks opposed extension of the park as such, but would accept a game-refuge designation on the park's east end—in effect a protective withdrawal against hunting and random development—the game refuge formed the heart of Vint's proposal. The Park Service would administer the buffer zone to the Nenana, but would not call it a park. [26]

A year later, Director Albright put fresh steam behind the east-extension idea, calling for outright extension of the park to the river. With this support, Vint joined the chorus for direct action. The park extension to the river—excluding the railroad right-of-way—would provide an unambiguous natural boundary and facilitate patrol and game protection. He noted that Governor Parks and General Manager Otto Ohlson of the Alaska Railroad still opposed park extension. Ohlson wanted development along this section of railroad as a source of freight revenues for his trains; [27] thus he differed from his predecessor, Colonel Mears, who had seen protected parklands all the way to the Nenana as a lure for tourist traffic. This institutional shift may have reflected differences in temperament between the two men; it surely reflected the deficit-ridden railroad's growing disillusionment with tourist traffic as a significant source of revenue.

Then ensued a series of letters and negotiations between Director Albright and Governor Parks. By late 1931 the governor had shifted his position. Instead of urging the railroad as the park's eastern boundary, he now counseled Albright to go to the river to avoid "administrative problems that may be exceedingly difficult to control." He was talking about "undesirable citizens [who] have squatted on the lower reaches of Riley Creek and conducted bootlegging establishments to the detriment of the railroad employees and others." [28]

Albright, having become aware of these problems, had meanwhile reversed his position and was now loath to go beyond the railroad. There were enough problems even with the line of the railroad, including the Morino homestead, which would have to be bought out. Why acquire more?

At the other end of the park, the Governor had long favored the acquisition of Wonder Lake as a hotel site. He had further urged that lands in the lake's vicinity and along the northwest boundary be taken to capture game-rich but mineral-free hills and drainages. The Anderson homestead and fox farm at Wonder Lake's north end would also have to be acquired in time. Albright eventually acceded to the governor's views.

With the governor's support, Judge Wickersham introduced the bill extending the park eastward to the Nenana, northward to include Wonder Lake, and with adjustments northwest and westerly to acquire game ranges in the Kantishna Hills-McKinley River quadrant. [29]

Map showing 1932 park addition. Kauffmann, Mount McKinley National Park, Map 4.

In a memorandum to the Secretary, published in the Senate Committee report on the park-expansion legislation, Director Albright neatly summarized the advantages of these additions, which, when enacted and approved on March 19, 1932, would define the nearly 2-million acre park until 1980:

The east side extension from Windy Creek north brings the park boundary to the right of way of the Alaska Railroad. There are a few isolated tracts lying east of the Alaska Railroad right of way and the west bank of the Nenana River which should also be included in the park, as proposed by amendment No. 4, hereinafter recommended. This would make the west banks of the Nenana River for all practicable purposes a natural boundary line for the park. This extension will bring into the park the administrative headquarters development now constructed on lands withdrawn for this purpose. The National Park Service already maintains roads and trails within this area, and the main park road begins at the railroad station. A new hotel will sooner or later be erected near the railroad and this park road. This hotel should be on park land and built under park policies regarding architecture. Furthermore, better protection can be given the mountain sheep in this section, because the present line is now high up on the side of mountains and can not be observed by hunters to avoid trespass and for the same reason can not be physically patrolled by rangers.

park headquarters
Park headquarters complex, ca. 1932. File 3-34, Denali National Park and Preserve historical archives.

The proposed extension to the northwest will bring Wonder Lake into the park. The shores of this lake would provide an advantageous site for another hotel-lodge development and would afford a finer view of Mount McKinley than any now had in the park. The extension would permit us to continue to this scenic region the road now being constructed. In the most part this area consists of lowlands well adapted for game uses, especially during winter, and will form a better boundary line from a game-protection standpoint. It will also aid in better conserving the moose in the park by giving them winter range protection. An additional benefit from Alaska's standpoint would come from the opening of the Wonder Lake region under the park program. It would then be a comparatively simple matter for the territory to connect up with the Kantishna district making that region accessible. [30]

The administrative problems that came with the new lands made prior warnings about them seem woefully understated. Critical inholdings included: those surrounding McKinley Station (Maurice Morino, 120 acres; Dan Kennedy, 5 acres; and D.E. Stubbs, 35 acres); the 130-acre John Stevens claim at Windy, on the railroad at the park's southeast corner; and the 160-acre Paula Anderson homestead at the north end of Wonder Lake. In addition to these valid homesteads and trading-manufacturing sites were a score or more squatters' cabins tucked into the new park landscapes by wintering miners, hunters and trappers, and bootleggers. Exclusion of the squatters, though a painful and thankless task, occurred fairly rapidly. Most of these cabins—after salvage of the occupants' personal effects, if the men could be found—were burned or dismantled.

But owners with valid holdings made claims for damages incident to the boundary change: Dan Kennedy complained that his guiding business had been ruined; D.E. Stubbs asserted that park rangers loosed dogs near his fox pens, to the ruination of his fox-farm business. Some of these claims resulted in payment of damages by the government.

Because the private establishments bordering the railroad were derelict and unsightly—as well as being haunts of "undesirable citizens," as Governor Parks had phrased it—negotiations to purchase these properties were recommended by General Land Office investigators. Lack of funds delayed timely purchase by the government, even from the few willing sellers. As these deals dragged out, resentments fanned by Stubbs and others—plus episodes incident to NPS law enforcement, e.g., breaking up stills—embittered the entire process. Resultant condemnations to rid the park of noxious and hazardous establishments clinched the adversarial attitudes. Not until late 1947, with transfer of the deed to the long-contested Morino estate, were all privately owned lands within the park acquired—not counting unpatented mining claims, which did not involve land ownership. [31]

It had been 15 years of stress and strain for all involved. As the years went on, new judges and juries rendered condemnation judgments. Apparent inconsistencies of legal interpretation and land prices, plus overt political interventions, produced widely varying judgments: thousands of dollars awarded in one case, paltry hundreds in another. Indeed, there was pain and attrition on both sides of these land dealings as the voluminous records of the cases indicate. For the park people, these unpleasant and seemingly endless tasks were the price paid to cohere the park and assure its legally mandated protection. [32]

After the war—with Morino long dead and buried at the park (March 1937), [33] and the bitter days fading into the past—the pioneer roles of Maurice Morino and his roadhouse spurred then-Supt. Frank Been to consider the building's preservation as a historic site. Investigation of the collapsing remains by an NPS landscape architect in 1948 put a damper on this idea: they were dilapidated beyond repair and an eyesore at the very entrance to the park. The issue was resolved when Jessie L. Shelton, bumming through the park on May 30, 1950, took shelter in the roadhouse and, while reposed on a cot, dropped a cigarette on the littered floor. Perhaps in gratitude for his beneficent arson—and in practical recognition of his destitution—Jessie was not prosecuted. [34] Remains of the charred ruin were razed in 1951. [35]

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Last Updated: 04-Jan-2004