News Release

Frequently Asked Questions About Delayed Openings, Closures and Restrictions

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Date: April 28, 2020
Contact: Jan Maslen, 9078227206

FAQ's 

Is the park open?
The overwhelming majority of the 13.2 million acre park and preserve is accessible and remains open to the public, under normal regulations and access requirements. The State is in the process of lessening restrictions now.

Why is the park increasing restrictions?
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, partners and communities is our highest priority. Until April 24, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve did not have any COVID-19 measures in place for visitor services. Although we were asked by some community members to consider a full park closure, we decided that it would be more effective to make localized strategic decisions, closer to when visitors typically arrive.

Visitors and federal subsistence users begin to arrive in large numbers in May. In response, we have put restrictions in place for a few locations that see high visitation. The locations were identified in consultation with the U.S. Public Health Service, National Park Service Office of Public Health. In accordance with guidance from the White House, CDC, and local public health authorities, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Park Service (NPS), the restrictions are consistent with current state mandates requiring social distancing in high use areas where people congregate or frequent in close spaces or high numbers. The good news is that we do not have COVID-19 in the Copper Basin (yet), these are temporary adjustments, and the overwhelming majority of the park and preserve remains open for use.

I don’t understand why the buildings and trails are restricted at Kennecott, can you explain?
The buildings and trails in the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark (KNHL) receive high levels of visitation including interstate, intrastate and international visitors. It is very difficult to maintain social distance in many of the spaces within the buildings and there are higher than normal standards to keep restroom facilities clean and disinfected (see below).

Additionally, the historic fabric and large footprint of the buildings make it extremely difficult to adequately clean, disinfect, and ensure buildings are COVID-19-free every day. Trails have high use (up to 15,000 visitors per season) and narrow sections where groups that encounter one another cannot pass with adequate social distancing. These same high-use trails require management of human waste and food storage. Within the KNHL, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is committed to working with the local community as well as businesses that have a current commercial use authorization permit or concession contract, to develop COVID-19 Mitigation Plans that establish protocols for protecting staff and visitors while providing visitors with tours and guided hiking opportunities.

Do the trail restrictions apply to guests of Kennecott property owners where these trails follow the neighborhood road easements within the Kennecott Subdivision?
NO. Kennecott property owners and their invited guests are exempt from these trail restrictions with the Kennecott Subdivision. Kennecott property owners have the right to invite anyone to their property. Those guests are allowed to use the subdivision easements to access that property, even when restrictions on the use of these trails are in place for reason of public health and safety.

How will Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve issue federal subsistence permits?
We are adapting our permitting process in response to COVID-19 guidance. We will issue a press release on or before May 1 that will describe the process in detail. Although the process will be different, we do not anticipate significant delays in permitting.

Why are there delayed openings at the visitor centers?
In response to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the State of Alaska, and in support of federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve has delayed the normal hiring, training and deployment of its seasonal workforce. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to bring a new employee on duty and the necessary delay means the park will be operating with limited staffing. In accordance with guidance from the White House, CDC, and local public health authorities, the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, we are working to gradually increase operational capacity. The earliest visitor services will resume is July 1.

Will public restrooms be open and cleaned along the McCarthy road and other locations within the park?
In consultation with U.S. Public Health Officers, COVID-19 restroom cleaning protocols in our front-country sites (e.g. the Kendesnii campground, McCarthy Road, etc) require daily or twice daily attention. Additionally, the personal protection equipment (PPE) needed for staff protection will have a significantly higher “burn rate.” Burn rate describes the amount of PPE (e.g., gloves, masks, etc) that we will go through, over time. We are in the process of evaluating a timeline and outcome for each of the more than 60 restrooms we maintain. A press release detailing restroom availability and cleaning frequency will be shared on or before May 5th. It is our goal to open as many restrooms as possible.

When will the Kendesnii campground and public use cabins open to everyone?
It is too early to know. As we build capacity for meeting the restroom cleaning standard set in consultation with U.S. Public Health Officers, we will re-evaluate the campground and its associated restrooms and the four designated public use cabins that have been closed. Ten additional public use cabins remain available on a first come first served basis, and have very low use: May Creek, Jakes Bar, Peavine 1, Peavine 2, Orange Hill, Too Much Johnson, Solo Mountain, Chelle Lake, Huberts Landing, Glacier Creek). In the interim, the restrictions are consistent with current state mandates requiring social distancing in high-use areas where people congregate or frequent in close spaces or high numbers.

Are these restrictions permanent?
NO. The restrictions are temporary. We are hopeful that there will not be any additional restrictions and that we will be able to ease current ones; however, we need to remain open and adaptable to changing conditions. We continuously evaluate circumstances in relationship to our operational capacity, state mandates, NPS guidance and in consultation with U.S. Public Health Officials.

What should I do if I have additional questions?
Contact: Jan Maslen, jan_maslen@nps.gov, 907-822-7206 or check the park’s website @ www.nps.gov/wrst for updates on the status of park operations. 



Last updated: April 30, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
PO Box 439
Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway

Copper Center, AK 99573

Phone:

(907) 822-5234

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