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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 1955
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
McKinley Park, Alaska. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 1:10 p. m., in the lobby, McKinley Park Hotel, Hon. Leo W. O'Brien (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. O'BRIEN. The hearing will come to order.
Will you identify yourself for the record, your full name and title, please.
STATEMENTS OF RICHARD G. PRASAL, PARK NATURALIST, AND
WAYNE D. JACOBS, ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT, MCKINLEY NATIONAL PARK, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Mr. PRASAL. Richard G. Prasal, park naturalist. Mr. ABBOTT. What is your capacity? Mr. PRASAL. Park naturalist. Mr. ABBOTT. And you, Mr. Jacobs, are assistant superintendent? Mr. JACOBs. Yes. Wayne D. Jacobs. Mr. ABBOTT. Now the purpose of the subcommittee's stop at McKinley National Park is certainly multifold. The staff members and some of the subcommittee members have consulted with Conrad Wirth, the Director of the National Park Service, from time to time. He asked particularly that if it were possible we stop at the park and look over the hotel facility; having the advantage of consultation with the people in the area office at San Francisco, those problems were somewhat pointed up.
I wonder if either or both of you gentlemen would just describe for the record and for the subcommittee members a little of the history of McKinley National Park, with particular reference to its operations, the attractions, and the visitor load as you have seen it. Then we will come, I am sure, as questions occur to the members, to some of the problems you have here. If you wish to include some comments on any proposed boundary changes, that would be quite in order. You can proceed in your own way:
Mr. PRASAL. As far as the history of the area is concerned, McKinley is relatively a new park, and even the knowledge of the mountain is a relatively recent thing, for actually the mountain was not known until about the mid-1800's. The Russians at that time reported it from the seacoast. Soon prospectors started venturing toward the interior of Alaska, and, interested in gold, they did not publish too much about the great mountain.
I believe in 1896 a man by the name of Dickey did see the mountain, and he thought it was the most tremendous mountain on the North American Continent. He didn't know it was to be the largest, but he believed it to be the record mountain.
He was doing this prospecting around the Susitna River, he and another man, and he saw this mountain mass and decided to write about it later on. On his way back to the coast he fell in with two other miners. These men were silver champions and spoke nothing but silver. Mr. Dickey, being a gold man, got fed up with it, so he decided to name the mountain after the champion of the gold standard, William McKinley. He did so and wrote his article about it, and it appeared in the New York Times in 1897.
Mr. ABBOTT. But for fate then, it might be the "William Jennings Bryan National Park?"
Mr. PRASAL. That is right, and William VicKinley never did see the mountain.
No one actually entered vhat is known as Mckinley Park until about a year later. Shortly after that time the Army sent an expedition in. Dr. Brooks was the leader of the expedition to the side of the mountain in 1895 at the Wonder Lake area, and about 2,000 miners entered the area at that time, and along with them a man by the name of Charles E. Sheldon, a hunter-naturalist, was here to study the Dall sheep and to collect specimens for his personal collection and for the United States National Museum. He saw the destruction going on because a great many of the miners were killing the Dall sheep and other animals. So when he returned to civilization he proposed this area be made a national park, and it took 10 years before the Congress saw fit to makeit that. But on February 26, 1917, the area was made Mt. McKinley National Park.
Over the various years since that time the boundary has been expanded until we now have some 3,000 square miles of park area. All of it is wilderness area, and within this area you can see not only the tallest mountain of the North American Continent, Mt. MiKinley, which stands 20,300 feet high, but many types of animals that are fouÐd nowhere else in no other national parks.
That is briefly our area's history.
Mr. ABBOTT. Are there natural boundaries that form the park here?
Mr. PRASAL. On this side, yes. We have the Nenana River boundary on the east side of the park. On the far western end, however, it is an arbitrary line. And the southern boundary follows below the summit of the main Alaska range. Its northern boundary follows along the foothills, the secondary range, as we call it.
Mr. ABBOTT. I believe the statistics we saw indicate it is about 112 miles long. That would be east to west.
Mr. PRASAL Yes.
Mr. ABBOTT. You mentioned boundary changes. I believe there were changes in 1922 and again in 1932 or 1933.
Mr. PRASAL. I don't recall the exact date of that last one.
Mr. PRASAL. Yes. We would like to include a section of land out near Wonder Lake to take in the foothills of the Moose Creek drainage.
Mr. ABBOTT. That would be then expanding the present area within the park?
Mr. PRASAL. Very slight.
Mr. BARTLETT. If I may say so, Mr. Chairman, I have a bill in designed to bring about some slight reduction, but there has been no report on it yet. Mr. ABBOTT. Where would they be? Mr. BARTLETT. This very area would be one of them.
Mr. ABBOTT. Is the Alaska Railroad as it crosses the southern boundary and the northern boundary entirely within the park, that is, between those two points? Mr. PRASAL. Yes, it is. Mr. ABBOTT. And that is technically not park ground?
Mr. PRASAL. They have their own right-of-way and maintain that area as their own.
Mr. ABBOTT. Could you background a little? Is this hotel the facility in the park?
Mr. PRASAL! This is the only one available.
Mr. ABBOTT. Could you describe the history of the hotel here briefly?
Mr. PRASAL. I do not feel qualified to go into that end of it.
Mr. JACOBS. I would like to have Mr. Hanson describe that. I believe he is best qualified.
Mr. ABBOTT. Would you identify yourself, please?
STATEMENT OF GARNER B. HANSON, MANAGER, MCKINLEY
Mr. HANSON. My name is Garner B. Hanson. My capacity here in McKinley is manager of the McKinley Park Hotel. I represent the National Park Concessions, Inc., as executive assistant to the president and general manager:
I can't give you too much of the background of the hotel here. It was completed in 1939, made available to the public. The north wing of the hotel was the last for completion.
Mr. ABBOTT. Was it constructed by or under the supervision of the National Park Service?
Mr. Hanson. It was constructed, it is my understanding, under the supervision of the Alaska Railroad with the cooperation of the National Park Service. Both branches, I think, were connected in the construction.
Mr. ABBOTT. Was it constructed as a facility for the Alaska Railroad or for the national parks?
Mr. HANSON. It was constructed at that time, it is my understanding, for the Alaska Railroad, which would also be available to the National Park Service visitors in the area.
Mrs. GREEN. It was not a WPA project?
Mr. BARTLETT. A special project of the Alaska Railroad and was operated for many years after construction by the Alaska Railroad.
Mr. ABBOTT. At one time did it come under the general authority that the Park Service has with respect to concessions, do you know?
Mr. HANSON. It is my understanding that it came under the Park Service jurisdiction in approximately April or May of 1953. At that time it was sublet or leased to a private concessionaire.
Mr. ABBOTT. And who was that concessionaire?
Mr. HANSON. They operated the facilities until August 25, 1954, 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when the National Park Service regained its properties and requested National Park Concessions, Inc., to furnish management for the facilities for the remainder of the 1954 season.
Mr. ABBOTT. We have had from time to time testimony on the National Park Concessions, Inc. Could you briefly tell us who they are?
Mr. HANSON. National Park Concessions, Inc., is a Delaware corporation, a nondistributing profit corporation organized for the primary purpose of operating in national parks and historic areas or other areas administered by the National Park Service in providing concessionaire-type facilities for the public. It is the policy of our company not to enter into an area or to bid on any concessionaire area but to go into the area upon the request of the National Park Service, and in almost every case when the National Park Service has been unable to obtain a private concessionaire. Mrs. GREEN. How old is the corporation? Mr. HANSON. It was formed on June 21, 1941.
Mr. ABBOTT. Could you describe some of the major concession contracts your people have?
Mr. Hanson. The areas in which we now operate, the main office at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, Isle Royal National Park in Michigan, Big Bend National Park in Texas, Olympic in Washington, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia. And we have a sales booth at the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park, N. Y., which it is my understanding will be closed this fall.
Mr. ABBOTT. Do you have a general concession contract here at McKinley?
Mr. Hanson. No. We have a 3-month management contract only to operate these facilities.
Mr. ABBOTT. It is only on an annual basis?
Mr. Hanson. It is just on a 3-month basis. After that period of time it will be closed.
Mr. BARTLETT. What kind of a contract is that a management contract?
Mr. HANSON. Whereby our company furnishes it manager and operates the facilities for the Federal Government.
Mr. BARTLETT. If a loss were to be incurred, would the Federal Government meet the loss?
Mr. Hanson. Yes, sir. If any profit is made, the profit will be turned over to the Federal Government.
Mr. BARTLETT. You said before that your company is a nondistributing profit corporation.
Mr. Hanson. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSON. That means any profits derived from facilities in the national park areas or historic sites or similar areas are to be turned back into those areas to improve the facilities, expand the facilities, or betterment of the service to the public visiting the park areas.
Mr. ABBOTT. What you take out are just the salaries of the people participating in management?
Mr. HANSON. That is right. We have no stockholders and no one benefits from any of the profits individually. All of our salaries of each individual of the corporation and employees of the corporation have to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
Mr. ABBOTT. Could you state for the record here a little of the experience that you have had in your management costwise in the use of the facility here?
Mr. HANSON. At McKinley Park?
Mr. HANSON. Starting on August 25 we took over the facilities to finish out the season. At that time the conditions of the facilities were very bad conditions, and we took steps then to spend approximately $20,000 to repair a lot of the equipment and do a lot of the repair work on the building, which was just a pittance to what should have been done. At the end of the season we presented a bill to the National Park Service for approximately $6,000. Revenues derived from the period of operation covered the remainder of costs.
Mr. BARTLETT. What was that period of operation?
Mr. Hanson. The period of operation open to the public was August 25 to September 12. We finally closed the facilities on September 25 for the 1954 season. Then on May 13 of this year the National Park Service called from Washington our company and requested that we provide management for the McKinley Park Hotel for this coming season, with the operating season to be from June 15 to September 15, inclusive, and should cover any preopening and closing period of time. The contract read that we would operate the facilities to the best interests of the public, satisfactory to the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, and that any funds derived on a profitwise basis would be turned over to the National Park Service and Federal Government and any losses would be paid to National Park concessions to reimburse them for any loss that might be incurred.
During the summer season we have had approximately 4,000 people who have stayed at the hotel. That is a rough figure and I wouldn't want to be held on that point.
Mr. BARTLETT. How does that compare with the total for last year? Do you happen to know?
Mir. HANSON. The records from the former operating company, according to the auditors of the National Park Service, are quite incomplete, and the record would be distorted, the figure you might come up with.
Mr. ABBOTT. Are you saying of your predecessor here in management, that the records were not in such shape as to indicate what the total patronage was?