Park service closes airstrip damaged by spring breakup

FAIRBANKS — Extreme damage from spring breakup has prompted federal officials to close a remote airstrip in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Gelvin’s Airstrip was closed Aug. 7 by the National Park Service after flooding damage left large obstacles and ice-gouged gullies on the airstrip, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The airstrip is located at the headwaters of the Charley River, between Circle and Eagle.

The park service said it doesn’t currently have the resources to fix the gravel airstrip because of federal budget cuts.

“Sequestration has limited our staff and we just haven’t been able to get in to do it,” said Pat Sanders, head interpretative ranger for the Yukon-Charley preserve. Park Service.

Personnel inspected the airstrip in June and found it severely damaged and unsafe for landing by any aircraft, but the park service didn’t have the resources to repair the landing strip.

In a typical year, park service personnel will send crews in with rakes and shovels to make the airstrip safe for landings since the Charley River often cuts into the airstrip during breakup. Otherwise the landing strip isn’t maintained.

However, this year, breakup was late and particularly damaging.

The airstrip is located 75 miles up the Charley River from where it flows into the Yukon River. Air taxi pilots and those flying private small planes dropping off caribou hunters or those rafting the Charley River are the typical users.

Pilots who frequently use the airstrip have been notified of the closure, and a large, white X has been painted on it to alert pilots it’s not safe to land. The service also in filing a Notice to Airmen with the Federal Aviation Administration, which would alert all pilots of potential hazards at the airstrip, Sanders told the News-Miner.

The park service will seek funding to repair the airstrip and an adjacent cabin, Sanders said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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