Crystalline Hills Trail in Wrangell-St. Elias NP & P

January 12, 2015
Dear Bert,

From the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC), welcome to Alaska! Susan Olsen, a recent past president and founding board member, was in a meeting with you and other conservation group representatives a short while ago. She came away very pleased with the meeting. We look forward to working with you in the future.

AQRC is writing today about the Park Service’s decision not to maintain the Crystalline Hills Trail in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST).

Founded in 1996, AQRC’s mission is to maintain and restore natural sounds and natural quiet in Alaska through advocacy and education for the benefit of people and wildlife. More particularly, we’re dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, visitors, future generations, and wildlife. We believe that natural sounds and natural quiet should receive the same consideration given to other ecological values, such as clean air and water, fish, wildlife, soils, vegetation, and scenic beauty. Although there are many places in Alaska that look the same as they did 100 or more years ago, very few sound as they did just 10 or 20 years ago.

In addition to protecting ecological values like the ones listed above, one of AQRC’s specific goals is a fair and equitable overall balance on the public lands between those managed for motorized recreation, and those managed for quiet, truly traditional forms of recreation like hiking, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.

We have seen the correspondence between Copper Country Alliance (CCA) and the Park Service. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that we support CCA’s position that the Crystalline Hills Trail should continue to be maintained, and the reasons given for that position. We won’t, therefore, repeat all of them.

We would emphasize, however, how extremely rare, even in Wrangell-St. Elias, trails and areas managed for non-motorized recreation (that is, closed to motorized recreation) are on Alaska’s state and federal public lands. (Even congressionally designated Wilderness that is managed in the lower 48 for non-motorized recreation only, is in Alaska nearly all open to recreational snowmachining.)

Finally, we’d also point out that a great deal of money is being spent on motorized trails in WRST, while it would take only a tiny fraction of those funds to keep the Crystalline Hills Trail maintained. If any agency should be providing a quality non-motorized trail experience on the public lands, shouldn’t the Park Service be that agency?

We were encouraged, though, by Joel Hard’s response to CCA, in which he said that Superintendent Obernesser would be reevaluating trail priorities this winter. We would appreciate hearing the status of that reevaluation. We of course hope that whenever that happens, if it hasn’t happened already, we will learn that due to both fairness to non-motorized visitors and land stewardship values (non-motorized recreation creates far less ecological damage than motorized recreation), the Park Service has decided to reverse its decision and continue to maintain the Crystalline Hills Trail.


Brian Okonek
President, Board of Directors
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition

cc: Joel Hard, Deputy Director, NPS, Alaska Region
Rick Obernesser, Superintendent, WRST
Bruce Rogers, Park Planner, WRST
Cliff Eames, Chairman, Board of Directors, Copper Country Alliance
Jim Stratton, Deputy Vice-President for Regional Operations, National Parks Conservation Association