Denali gets new leader

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The new superintendent for Denali National Park and Preserve plans to continue working on issues of access and visitor facilities for the state's busiest national park.

The transfer of Paul Anderson, 51, was announced Monday. He's been serving as deputy regional director for all the parks in Alaska for the last nine years, so the change is more of a lateral move than a promotion.

''I'm truly excited,'' Anderson said in an interview. ''It gets me back out in the field and working on the ground on park resources firsthand.''

As deputy director of the region, Anderson has been involved over the years in many of the issues that his predecessor, Steve Martin, has dealt with. Martin will be leaving next month to take the top job at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

''I would expect to continue the direction Steve Martin set on front-country development,'' Anderson said. ''We've got about $10 million in construction money to make the front country more accessible to the public.''

As for a proposal to build a rail line into the northern part of the park, Anderson says that will have to wait for various studies to be completed.

The Legislature last year passed a law transferring 3,500 acres of state land to the Denali Borough to build a railroad. Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed the law, but last week the Legislature overrode that veto.

Joe Fields, head of Kantishna Holdings of Fairbanks, says he's ready to begin preliminary work on the line this summer.

Anderson, though, looks at the project in a longer timeframe.

''We're going to be working with the borough and the state this coming year to continue the effort to gather information,'' he said.

On the south side of the park, Anderson thinks there will be access near the end of the currently rugged Petersville Road.

''In the long run I think it will provide more opportunity for additional visitor use that is reasonably accessible, and an opportunity to get to the south side of the park that's really not there now,'' he said. ''We want to continue to work with the (Matanuska-Susitna) borough and the state and local communities to find ways to implement that plan as it makes sense and people are willing to support it.''

In less accessible areas of the park, what rangers call the backcountry, Anderson says officials are looking at a management plan that will include ''a variety of options on how we can accommodate smowmachiners.''

With Anderson moving to the superintendent's job, Marcia Blaszak will take his place as deputy to Rob Arnberger, the regional director. She's been in Alaska for seven years, managing the agency's support office in Anchorage, with about 200 employees working for her.

Both Anderson and Blaszak have more than 30 years working for the park service.

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