DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, Alaska (AP) — The only road into Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve has been closed in an effort to keep people home during the coronavirus pandemic, and Seward’s popular Mount Marathon race, a frantic dash up and down the Kenai Peninsula mountain every July 4th, has been postponed, officials said Tuesday.
Park officials said in a release the closure of the 92-mile (148-kilometer) park road is in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and state of Alaska health mandates and travel restrictions to control the spread of the virus.
The state mandates include directives to require Alaskans to stay home, not travel between communities and to practice social distancing.
“This was a difficult decision for the park, but in light of continued visitation to the park from areas of known community spread, including Anchorage and Fairbanks, these changes are necessary to support the governor’s health mandates and travel restrictions, as well as to keep our staff and the surrounding communities safe,” Denice Swanke, the park’s acting superintendent said in a statement.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The road is normally open to mile 13. Only buses are allowed after that point in the summer months, once the snow melts.
However the road is now closed to recreational access at the park entrance on the Parks Highway, which connects the Anchorage area to Fairbanks. Subsistence activities will not be affected, and accessing the park by other means such as hiking or snowmobile will not be affected.
“We are working closely with local communities, our business partners, and the state to be ready for visitors when this crisis is over, and to support whatever level of visitation is considered safe until then,” Swanke said, noting that the park employees continue seasonal efforts to open and maintain the road for future access.
Denali National Park previously suspended issuing permits needed to climb Denali, North America’s tallest peak. The park service also closed its ranger station in the nearby community of Talkeetna.
Authorities with the Mount Marathon race in Seward have postponed the event over concerns of attracting thousands of people to Seward for race the race during the pandemic.
Race officials have tentatively set the new date for the race on Sept. 6, during Labor Day. However, officials said in a statement that a final decision will be made on June 1 whether to hold it on that date or just postpone it entirely until the Fourth of July, 2021.