To the editor:
The recently constructed “Sheldon Chalet” which is rumored to cost more than 10 million dollars, financed by multiple investors (including possible foreign investment) dominates what was created by pioneering legend Don Sheldon on the Ruth glacier in Denali National Park. Don Sheldon built a 6-sided plywood shelter 12x12x12 which included a woodstove and benches around the perimeter to sleep on which the general public could easily afford to rent. Climbers, skiers and pristine wilderness seekers would go there and have a unique experience. These people as well as families would get dropped off fully dressed and prepared for the environment with mountains of gear, firewood, coolers of food and snowshoe a trail through 2 or 3 feet of snow up to the original Mountain House built in the late 60s. They would get a fire started, haul all their stuff up and enjoy the quiet landscape of Denali. These days are gone.
Now at the cost of thousands of dollars per person for a minimum stay, people are flown in by helicopter, land on a steel helipad 50 feet from the door, walk in wearing their street clothes to what looks like a best western motel with a chef, maid, bar, sauna, and all the high-end conveniences you can imagine.
The Sheldon Chalet sits between two of the main glacier landing areas for tourist to view Denali while standing on the glacier. The visitors view and soundscape now will be helicopter traffic, generators, The Elephant, wooden stairs across the rocks and snowmobiles (one of which is currently lost in the glacier somewhere).
None of this was there before the Sheldon Chalet. Its unaffordable to most. The Don Sheldon Amphitheater has been changed forever -for money, tax write offs, and the greedy exploitation for a few. The Sheldon Chalet web site and social media have portrayed and misled the public on many issues involving the Sheldon Chalet. What will be the next venue… a casino?
Living in Talkeetna for 40 years and having known Roberta Sheldon for 30 years, I will say she was a 1 st class woman of distinction and her gratitude for nature and Alaska was unmatched. She fought against the Susitna Dam, she preserved the historical district of Talkeetna, and she kept the cost of going to the Mountain House in reach of the average person. She loved it here.
I have a hard time believing she would have approved of the Sheldon Chalet as it is now. She left the nearly 5 acre piece of property and original Mountain House built in the late 60s to her three children; Holly, Kate, and Robert.
My wife Holly Sheldon Lee and I own Sheldon Air Service named after and in honor of Don Sheldon. I have been flying Alaskans and travelers from all around the world to the original Don Sheldon Mountain House for nearly 40 years. Sadly, that has been taken away from us, left us out, not involved, against our will due to the bullying of two siblings who have taken total control of what was also willed to Holly. This is one of the things that will be discussed at the oral *argument in the Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 1:30 pm on the 5 th floor of the K Street Building at 303 K Street in Anchorage.
Flying Denali is our way of life, we will continue to provide transportation and trips of a lifetime to all who live here and will come to this great State of Alaska, even if there is an elephant in the Park.
— David Lee