Owner of lodge in national park challenges officials over pallets

Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Lodge owner Doug Frederick wants the National Park Service to make an example out of him.

He's refusing to pay a $500 fine for failing to have a permit to place wooden pallets on muddy sections of a trail inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park because he says the agency invited his help and then betrayed him.

"I was working with the Park Service. Basically, they set me up," Frederick said. "Somebody has to expose the Park Service. These people are clear out of control."

Frederick's lawyer filed an appeal Tuesday.

Frederick, 54, said his problems with the National Park Service show an increasingly hostile attitude the agency is taking toward private property owners inside the country's largest national park. There are several hundred inholders inside the 13.2 million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and collectively they own about 1 million acres.

"The Park Service will do anything to get 'inholders' out," Frederick said. "They don't want anybody living in their park."

Frederick's family has owned property inside the park since the 1950s, well before the Wrangell-St. Elias was established in 1980.

Despite what many inholders think, park superintendent Gary Candelaria, said the agency does not want to drive them out.

"It is not our intent to acquire the inholdings and move them out," he said. "None of us, from myself down to the ranger, we don't like adversarial relationships with our neighbors. We're just folks, too."

Candelaria became Wrangell-St. Elias superintendent in 1999. For 11 years, he was chief ranger at Sitka National Historical Park.

Frederick's problems began in July 2002 when about 85 people attended a meeting with Park Service officials to discuss a trail damaged by four-wheelers. According to a court document, chief ranger Hunter Sharp asked the crowd for ideas on repairing the trail and said the Park Service didn't have the money to do the work itself.

Frederick said the locals could help fix up the mud holes. Sharp said he could not officially approve repairs, but, "if you are trying to do the right thing I will not jump on your case."

Last May, Frederick and some friends headed into the park and placed the pallets across three muddy areas to keep the trail from being further damaged. He sent a photo of the pallets in use to a regional supervisor, asking him what he thought.

What happened next floored Frederick, he said. The agency cited him for building inside the park without a permit. A federal magistrate fined him $500 this month.

Candelaria said Frederick was told to get a permit if he wanted to do work in the park.

"He never gave us a chance to talk to him," he said. "He went out and did it first."

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