Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Enigma That Is Jeff Stewart

Reaction to Jeff Stewart's Letter to Editor  19 March 2010
         On March 16, for almost three hours, local park users, tour operators, the site designer, park officials, and eight members of the Kodiak State Parks Citizens Advisory Board engaged in a lively discussion of the pros and cons of the revised site plan for Miller Point. Attendees were able to stand around the site plans and point to specific details as they presented their views.  They were also able to key written comments to specific areas on the plans. Alternative options as well as suggestions for fine-tuning the project were discussed in depth.  Supporters of the revised plan were able to articulate their reasons for support. And, anyone who had an objection to the project as a whole had an audience to defend and promote his/her view with park officials, the KSP CAB, and the attending public.
     Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart chose not to participate in that discussion (he states that after arriving at 5 pm, he left "15 or 20 minutes later"); had he interacted with those present, he would have had ample opportunity to "[argue] that taken as a whole, the collective changes would seriously degrade if not destroy the natural beauty of the park".  Rather than present his view in an open, public forum where it could explained and debated thoroughly with park officials (as well as other attendees, possibly gaining allies for his point of view), he has chosen to publish a screed filled with hyperbole and inaccuracy.
        We are currently in the third formal period of public comment related to this project which has also been discussed at many public KSP CAB meetings since 2005. I hope Mr. Stewart will submit written comments on the revised Concept B and attend KSP CAB meetings to share his views and hear Board discussion of Miller Point and other park issues.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Death of a Great American

Ironically, I just watched the final installment of Ken Burns' National Parks series in which he shows how the Udall brothers were an important part of the NP expansion in the 1960s and 70s.

 Stewart L. Udall dies at 90; Interior secretary championed national parks

Udall promoted the idea that government should preserve vast areas of wilderness. He also served in Congress and later led a crusade on behalf of victims of radiation exposure.

Stewart Udall and Lady Bird Johnson
Stewart Udall, who served as Interior secretary under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, hikes with Lady Bird Johnson in 1966.

Stewart L. Udall, who as Interior secretary in the 1960s vastly expanded the country's system of national parks and monuments and developed far-reaching legislation to protect public lands, has died. He was 90.

Udall died Saturday morning at his home in Santa Fe, N.M., surrounded by his children, according to a statement from his son, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico. He died of natural causes after a fall last week that had kept him confined to bed.

Udall, who served in Congress and later led a crusade on behalf of victims of radiation exposure, had many accomplishments during his decades of public service. But his most important legacy came from championing the idea that government should preserve vast areas of land.

"Any wilderness area, any national park and national monument -- wherever you live in the United States now, there is one relatively close to you. He created the spirit that made all those things possible," said Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club

"In 1960, most Americans lived thousands of miles from any national park," he said. "They don't anymore."

During the eight years that Udall served under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, he worked with the Sierra Club to create Redwood National Park along California's northern coast.

He also oversaw the creation of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, North Cascades National Park in Washington state and Canyonlands National Park in Utah, along with the Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts and the Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.

He also helped write numerous pieces of legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, which protects millions of acres.

"Many people at the time thought it was a crazy idea," he told the New York Times in 1989.

Stewart Lee Udall was born Jan. 31, 1920, in St. Johns, Ariz. He was one of five children raised on a small subsistence farm in the northeastern corner of the state, not far from Zuni and Navajo reservations.

His grandfather David King Udall founded the town after moving from Utah in 1880 as a Mormon missionary. Udall's father, Jesse, served as chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Udall attended Thatcher Junior College and then the University of Arizona, pausing his studies to serve as a Mormon missionary in New York and Pennsylvania and as a B-24 tail gunner in Italy during World War II.

After the war, he returned to finish his degree and attend law school.

In 1954, Udall was elected to Congress and held the seat until President Kennedy tapped him to become secretary of the Interior. His brother Morris succeeded him in Congress. Morris' son Mark is a Democratic senator from Colorado.

Udall left government in 1969 and stayed in Washington for another decade practicing law and writing books.

He returned to Arizona in 1979 and pursued a lawsuit against the government on behalf of Navajo men who mined uranium and later developed cancer. The suit failed.

In 1994 Udall published a book that drew on that experience, "The Myths of August: A Personal Exploration of Our Tragic Cold War Affair with the Atom." In it he argued that leaders and scientists, intoxicated by the power of nuclear weapons, forged a secret national security state and that there was no military need for the United States to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"Whether in the skies above Italy in World War II, in Congress or as secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall left an indelible mark on this nation and inspired countless Americans who will continue his fight for clean air, clean water and to maintain our many natural treasures," President Obama said in a statement Saturday.

Udall, who counted poet Robert Frost and actor Robert Redford among his friends, was a committed outdoorsman.

During his years in Washington, he took his children to Interior Department outposts in the area on weekends and rafting down Western rivers in the summer.

A few years ago he trekked with a grandson 7,000 feet up Bright Angel Trail, from the floor of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. He refused a National Park Service offer of a mule.

His family "wouldn't have liked it if I hadn't made it," he noted, "but what a way to go." Upon completing his ascent, he headed straight into the bar at the Tovar Lodge and ordered a martini.

Udall was married for 55 years to Erma Lee Udall. She died in 2001. He is survived by their six children and eight grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Miller Point Access Project Open House 16 March 2010

     The sentence I heard most often at the open house the evening of March 16 2010 was "Thank you - you listened and took our comments into consideration."  As I listened to participants at the open house, I got a sense that most people were supportive of the new configuration proposed for Miller Point. At least one local tour operator was very supportive and stressed the importance of safe and convenient access to Miller Point and the military museum for his elderly and disabled clients. His comments reminded me of the park's mission to serve all of its visitors. 
     Attendance, according to the sign-up list, was a total of 37 with 2 reporters and 5 KSP CAB members included in that number.  Eight of ten KSP CAB members were present, talking with attendees and listening to comments and concerns. Also present and listening were two Parks staff from Anchorage and three Kodiak Parks staff.
     I believe that as the public has learned the facts about the MPAP and realized the complexity of the situation, they've come to realize that Alaska State Parks is doing a good job of trying to remedy the safety and access concerns at Miller Point while taking into account the wishes of local residents as well as other visitors to the park.
      The eight-tenths (.8) acre parking/large vehicle turn around area has been reduced to two-tenths (.2) acre with only 37 trees affected and the area will have ADA accessible parking. Ambulances, fire trucks, and law enforcement vehicles will be able to access the area and maneuver safely in the case of an emergency.  The RV Overflow parking lot will become the central parking area with a trail head at the loop road leading up to Miller Point, thus enhancing the visitor experience and sense of discovery. The campground currently impacting important historical artifacts will be moved to an area yet to be determined - possibly in the Ram site area.  Public input on campground placement is important.
    Hard copies of the site plans are available at the Fort Abercrombie Visitor Center - see for yourself!
      I hope that those who submit written comments will heed the advice of the public comment brochure so that their comments are substantive and contribute to a constructive dialogue.

FYI - a far more serious and disturbing issue facing Kodiak State Parks at this time is the FAA proposal to extend the north/south runway at the Kodiak Airport 1200 feet toward the mouth of the Buskin River.  The agency review draft admits that such an extension would damage Buskin River salmon runs, thus threatening sport and subsistence fishing in the area.
Stacy Studebaker has started a blog, "Stewards of the Buskin River" and a Facebook page related to this issue.  Look for both to be updated within the next week.  The agency review of the draft EIS for the project has just been completed.  No word at this time as to when the general public can review the draft EIS.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Miller Point Trees - Fact vs. Fiction

Some facts about the proposed Miller Point parking area:
(This information is based on Concept A for the MPAP approved by a consensus of the KSP CAB on April 14, 2008 - the March 16 2010 open house presented Concept B which is different from Concept A; Concept B reduces the .8 acre footprint to .2 acre while still providing ADA parking and ample room for emergency vehicles, RVs, and school buses to maneuver without assistance)
The parking area is eight-tenths (0.8) acre -  smaller than every building lot in Kodiak that cannot connect to water and sewer. (minimum lot size for septic is 1 acre)

The trees to be removed are 60 years old or less  - Jane Eisenman's high school class cored the trees and aged them. (Reported to me - not verified at this time).  They are not "some of the oldest and largest trees in the park". 

The number of "50-60" trees to be removed may be accurate, but the reason there are that number is that they are younger, smaller trees than those farther away from Miller Point.

Most, if not all, of the trees in that small area were not there when Abercrombie was an active military installation - see photos of the area from that time.

The trees are not "old-growth forest" - see above and link to Wikipedia.

No other trees in the park are slated to be removed for Miller Point access - the "clear-cutting of Fort Abercrombie" statements are inaccurate and hyperbole.

The topography of the area indicates that the stands of trees to the north and west may not be  interconnected root systems with the young trees to be removed.  There is a large hump to the north, separating the stands of trees. This substantial northern stand will shield the area from northerly winds.

The area does not affect the cross-country course in any way - in fact, a parking area at Miller Point will help alleviate the unsafe practice of X-C spectators parking on the road which is not wide enough to safely accommodate parking.

Interestingly, there was no public outcry when the trees blocking the view at Miller Point were removed a few years ago - in fact, many park users praised the opening up of the view. (These trees were 60 years old or younger like the trees in the proposed parking area).

And, there was no public outcry about the trees that were removed to construct the new bike trail into the park - many of those trees were larger and older than the trees in the proposed parking area.

The trees are to be recycled for communal cooking shelters if a new campground is created in the Ram Site area - this use would help create a more "Kodiak" atmosphere for the campground.

Creating a "loop road" will require cutting a substantial number of older, larger trees in the loop road area - it will also require a massive amount of fill to shore up the steep slopes to support such a road.  ASP minimum road surface width is 14 feet.  Visit the area and measure for yourself (I did, using a 14 foot rope stretched between myself and a companion) - imagine a large vehicle such as an ambulance or fire truck or RV trying to negotiate the Spotting and Plotting Bunker turn into the RV overflow parking lot.

Sources:  ASP personnel, ASP documents, historical photos of Miller Point, Stacy Studebaker, Wikipedia, KIB codes

FYI - a far more serious and disturbing issue facing Kodiak State Parks at this time is the FAA proposal to extend the north/south runway at the Kodiak Airport 1200 feet toward the mouth of the Buskin River.  The agency review draft admits that such an extension would damage Buskin River salmon runs, thus threatening sport and subsistence fishing in the area.
Stacy Studebaker has started a blog, "Stewards of the Buskin River" and a Facebook page related to this issue.  Look for both to be updated within the next week.  The agency review of the draft EIS for the project has just been completed.  No word at this time as to when the general public can review the draft EIS.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Upcoming Fort Abercrombie Meetings

Open House Scheduled for Ft. Abercrombie State Historical Park Site Designs
(Kodiak, AK) – The Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation have received funding through the cruise ship tax fund to address long standing issues at Ft. Abercrombie State Historical Park.

Much of the focus for the use of this funding has centered on correcting safety issues at Miller Point but development concepts for the entire park are also being evaluated.

As part of the site planning process, the Division is hosting an open house on March 16th from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Kodiak High School Cafeteria to provide the public an opportunity to view revised site plan concepts, ask questions and get more information.

For more project information visit:


Fort Abercrombie National Historic Landmark Preservation Plan Public Meeting March 11, 2010 (Kodiak, AK) – The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation will host a public meeting on March 11 beginning at 7:00pm at the Bayside Fire Station Training Center, 4606 East Rezanof Drive.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the first draft Fort Abercrombie National Historic Landmark Preservation Plan and to receive comments and suggestions from key stakeholders and interested members of the community.

This project received funding assistance from the National Park Service through a Preserve America Grant. Project planners will present a general overview of the project’s scope, goals and objectives, and general timeline.

Participants will be given the opportunity to ask questions, discuss concerns, and submit comments to the planning team. For more information contact Niki Acevedo at or 907-269-0429.