One of Denali’s centennial goals is to better connect local Alaskans with the park. This is no small task when the closest city with a grocery store is two hours away! Nonetheless, Denali enjoys a strong local community that extends all the way to that aforementioned city (Fairbanks) and we enjoyed a great turnout for our Need for Seed event this past weekend.

Due to the dynamic nature of the park (check out this article on our latest landslide) and the park’s increasing popularity, Denali maintenance crews are constantly working on new projects. Unfortunately, building projects often do a number on local vegetation, leaving empty patches of dirt on the side of a freshly graded road or a new log cabin.

In response, Denali’s resources division re-vegetates these areas with native species to keep the ecosystem intact. You may be surprised to find that, even in Fairbanks, it can be difficult to find a supplier of many of Denali’s native plants. In fact, it is most economical and ecological for resources to source the seeds from inside the park boundary. Their “need for seed” is how this volunteer event was born.

In total, about 40 people participated on Saturday, tourists and Alaskans alike, a wonderful turnout for our remote park. I gave a quick thank you and safety talk to the volunteers before Jamie, a fellow SCA intern who works with exotic plants, demonstrated proper seed harvesting technique. We split into three groups and made our way around the Denali Visitor Center, collecting seeds from eskimo potato, milk vetch, and wheat grass.

eskimo potato
Eskimo Potato seeds

By noon, we were wrapped up. Everyone went away with a water bottle, a free bus ticket into the park, a cookie, and the feeling that they made a difference in their park.

happy seed collectors
Happy Harvesters. Photo: Bonnie Westlund

On Sunday, we held a private event for employees of Holland America-Princess (HAP). Early in the planning process, we came up with the idea of holding private events for local businesses, as a way to build lasting partnerships with the park. I couldn’t think of a better business with which to begin this tradition than HAP, a tour operator who owns many of the hotels outside of the park and is responsible for bringing in a good number of our visitors.

HAP group
HAP volunteers. Photo: Bonnie Westlund

On Sunday, we were happy to welcome about 15 HAP employees who collected seeds along Riley Creek, a scenic waterway near our front country campground. Social trails stocked with eskimo potato and milk vetch meander up and down the creek providing a peaceful volunteer experience. In addition, these trails provide no shortage of areas to stop for blueberries or admire wild mushrooms.

Wild mushroom patch along the Riley Creek social trails. Photo:Bonnie Westlund

Our HAP group was as successful as ever, providing us with even more seeds for re-vegetation. We invited both the Saturday and Sunday groups to come back next year and admire the fruit of their labor along the park road or around any new structures. We hope that this is one of many events that will connect local Alaskans to Denali in the future. We look forward to working with HAP and all of our Saturday participants again!