Alaska, Politics, Seward History

Local Officials Stay Tightlipped about Presidential Visit

Obama
Official Portrait of President Barack Obama

By Rick Smeriglio for SCN —

When then President Warren G. Harding arrived in Seward on July 13, 1923 aboard the U.S.S. Henderson, people knew his itinerary and welcomed him at the dock. Historic photographs show President Harding standing on the platform of an Alaska Railroad (Alaska Northern Railway Co.) passenger car with a crowd gathered around. More than the date has changed. The White House has announced that President Barack H. Obama plans to travel to the Seward area on September 1. The “Seward area” has a large, vaguely defined boundary. Various local officials and agencies have said almost nothing publicly about preparations for the announced visit.

US Coast Guard public affairs office told SCN that USCG knew of the presidential visit and that officers responsible for security had ongoing meetings to hammer out details. Public affairs also said that USCG probably would not issue a press release with further information about the matter. Cutter Mustang berths in Seward.

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An Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman said that the Troopers had contacted federal officials about security, but had gotten no response. She said that the Secret Service handled security for the President and that the Troopers had ongoing duties in Alaska regardless presidential visits. AST have a detachment based in Moose Pass.

The announced reasons for the visit to Alaska include addressing climate change in the Arctic and giving President Obama an opportunity to see the effects of climate change. This has led to speculation that the President might visit receding glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park. Park Superintendent Bekki Lasell said park personnel “were planning for a visit in case there is one”. She repeated that phrase three times during a short telephone conversation, but would not divulge what the planning included. Lasell said that her park did not have any plans or a set schedule. When asked, Lasell could not confirm having met with the Secret Service. Neither would she deny it. She twice mentioned the availability of cupcakes for an upcoming Park Service birthday party.

Sources within the USDA Forest Service say that the agency plans to meet with Seward police department on Wednesday. Local FS law enforcement officers have no special plans for a presidential visit. The same sources report that the FS has not met with the Secret Service. They also report that FS has not had to notify permittees who operate on Godwin Glacier and the Sargent Icefield on the Chugach National Forest, of restrictions owing to airspace security. The Chugach National Forest officially refers all media inquiries on the subject of the President of the United States, to the White House Office of Communications at (202) 456-2580.

City of Seward has issued a polite, information-free statement welcoming President Obama. The Federal Aviation Administration website shows no temporary flight restrictions or closed airspace in the Seward area as of Tuesday afternoon, August 25.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for trying, Rick!
    Carol Griswold

  2. Pingback: Alaska News Roundup for August 28 | Inside Alaska