ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Drivers will be able to drive through Denali National Park and Preserve on its only access road this summer after measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 reduced anticipated bus traffic in the park.
The park service has announced Friday that vehicles will be allowed to access usually restricted portions of the park through a reservation system being rolled out in two stages, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The announcement came after the pandemic caused a stark decline in visitors.
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 vast majority of people recover.
The reservation system allows the public to reserve one of a limited number of daily scheduled entries, park officials said, adding that visitors will be able to access the road starting Monday through June 30 with the Teklanika Road Permit.
It is unclear how many private vehicles would be allowed on the road under the new policy and depends on bus and commercial operations, and any impacts on wildlife, officials said.
When tour, transit and camper bus services begin starting in July, visitors will also be able to access a different road to the Eielson Visitor Center with an Eielson Road Permit. That permit is limited to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays on five predesignated weekends during the summer.
Additional permits will be made available two days before the permit date, park officials said.
The reservation system is separate from the longstanding road lottery offered annually.
The park draws 1,600 lottery winners each year, park spokesman Gerald Hitchcock said, adding that the odds of being drawn are about one in seven.