Wood Tikchik will absorb one of three personnel cuts statewide as the State Parks works with $500,000 budget reduction.
Effective July 1, Wood Tikchik State Park will go from two staffed ranger positions to one. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more:
Audio transcript below ...
KDLG: To absorb a half-million dollar budget cut, Alaska State Parks made the decision to eliminate three positions across the state: one in Sitka, one in Valdez, and one of the two ranger positions at Wood Tikchik north of Dillingham. How to staff Wood Tikchik, the nation’s largest state park, has been up in the air for some two years. Here’s State Parks Deputy Director Claire LeClair with the latest:
"At this time we do intend to have staffing in Dillingham year round, and hope to find a way to have additional staff in the summer as we know is needed. And it's our intent to get the plane fixed, back up and running," she said.
Last August the Park gave a Super Cub it was borrowing back to its owners the Alaska State Troopers. Parks' own plane previously used at Wood Tikchik has been gone for years, apparently still under repair.
The Division hopes to keep Alison Eskelin, one of its few trained pilots, as Wood Tikchik’s lone ranger, hopefully with a floatplane to use for patrol.
Bill Berkahn’s senior ranger position was eliminated after State Parks did some administrative reorganization last year:
"Wood Tikchik is now managed by the same superintendent who manages Chugach State Park. That individual is Tom Harrison," said LeClaire.
Berkahn says he may transfer elsewhere in the State Park system until he retires. (In an interview two months ago, Parks Director Ben Ellis pointed out that the decisions were based on numbers, not staff performance.)
The staff change is expected by July 1. No further information was offered as to when Wood Tikchik might get its plane back, or if extra staff would be present this summer season.