Cold spring means late wake-up call for Denali National Park

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A cold, wet spring meant a late wake-up call for ground squirrels and grizzly bears in Denali National Park and Preserve, but the National Park Service is hoping to have tour buses running on time.

Spring road-clearing crews are about a week behind schedule as they try to get the 90-mile road open in time for the tourist season. The buses are scheduled to begin shuttling tourists into and out of the park on May 25.

The Park Service on Friday opened the road to Teklanika, as it does each spring. Private vehicles can drive the first 30 miles of the road until the buses start shuttling tourists, at which point only the first 15 miles will be open to private traffic.

Bad weather hampered efforts to open the road, said Brad Ebel, West District road maintenance foreman.

A series of snowstorms has forced crews to backtrack several times and reclear sections of the road.

''We've had at least three different storms that we've had to come back and deal with,'' Ebel said. ''We're working to make up for lost time.''

The park road is usually open to the Teklanika rest stop before the end of April.

Even though the road is open, it may close and reopen daily over the next several weeks depending on the weather, East District foreman Tim Taylor said.

As of Friday, crews had made it as far as Mile 56 on the 90-mile road. ''We didn't have much snow this year but we had a lot of ice,'' Ebel said. ''Ice slows us down and we still have more ice ahead of us. It's a never-ending winter.''

For more information on the condition of the park road, call 683-2294 during the week and 683-9555 on the weekend.

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