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Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska), National parks and reserves -- Alaska, National parks and reserves -- Alaska -- Kenai Peninsula -- Planning


Kenai Fjords National Park (KEFJ) occupies roughly 1,760 square miles on the Kenai Peninsula in southcentral Alaska. Sitting adjacent to the community of Seward, the park was established in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA). The central portion of the park contains the Harding Icefield, from which no fewer than 38 active glaciers exit into valleys and tidewater locations surrounding the park. Of these glaciers, Exit Glacier is the most publicly accessible, and the only park glacier with road access from the town of Seward. A number of individuals and families from the Seward area visit the Exit Glacier area in the course of recreational and subsistence activities within the larger Resurrection River Basin.

The current project seeks to document the recent human history of the Exit Glacier area, based on the accounts of long-term residents of Seward, Alaska regarding the period from 1950 to 1980. Interviewees shared their personal recollections of the Exit Glacier region, providing an especially rich account of hunting, trapping, recreational travel, and other activities associated with the study area, transportation methods used to access Exit Glacier, and changes in their relationship with that landscape during a span of time from well before NPS management up to the present day. This project serves a two-fold purpose. These oral history interviews have helped to preserve local history for interpretive and educational purposes. Simultaneously, this research has been undertaken to help define what constitutes "traditional activities" in and around Seward, in order to help the park make informed management decisions about what activities are allowed under the terms of ANILCA.

Interview data suggest that the use of motor vehicles to access the Exit Glacier area appears to have been well established prior to park creation in 1980, especially involving the use of snowmachines and automobiles. Snowmachines were used for hunting, trapping, and recreational uses in the Harding Icefield and Exit Glacier areas. Lands now in the park were also used for such purposes as berry picking and nonmotorized recreational activities prior to park creation. All of these are ostensibly “traditional” activities by legal definitions of that term, potentially admissible under ANILCA under certain conditions. Following park creation, many of these "traditional" uses and modes of access have continued in attenuated form. Seward residents appear to use the larger Resurrection River valley near Exit Glacier for a wide range of utilitarian and recreational activities as well. The importance of the Exit Glacier area for transportation, recreation, and resource harvesting purposes appears to vary within the community, reflecting the considerable size and diversity of the Seward community.


* At the time of publication Douglas Deur was affiliated with the University of Washington

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