ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Soviet and American government park planners, after weeks of walking the tundra in eastern Siberia and Alaska and poring over maps, recommended Wednesday that Washington and Moscow create a joint U.S.-Soviet park straddling the Bering Strait.
'We envision the creation of an international park on both sides of the Bering Strait,' said Innokenty Ivanov, Soviet planning specialist.
'It's a long-time dream to create some kind of protected area across the Bering Strait,' said Denis Galvin, National Park Service associate director of planning and development.
Galvin and Ivanov, leaders of the U.S. and Soviet delegations, respectively, signed a protocol Wednesday in Anchorage recommending creation of the international park.
The existing Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, 2.6 million acres of undeveloped but protected land on Alaska's Seward Peninsula reaching out toward the Soviet land mass, would become the American half of the park, while the Soviets would have to designate new parkland for the project on the Chukotka Peninsula.
Ivanov suggested a joint science, information and management center for such a park, possibly on land that would become common territory with no visas required for scientists and researchers conducting work there.
Speaking through an interpreter at an Anchorage news conference, Ivanov broached the possibility of establishing what amounts to a park headquarters on one of the Diomede Islands.
Although the 50-mile-wide Bering Strait separates the U.S. and Soviet mainlands, two specks of land in the middle of the strait bring the superpowers much closer. A mere 2.7 miles separates Soviet Big Diomede Island from Alaska's Little Diomede Island.
But those are details, and the four Americans and four Soviets had come a long way simply to reach agreement on the concept of such a park, which first must be approved through various bureaucratic channels on both sides.
Overcoming obstacles, like travel and visa matters, and getting Washington and Moscow to agree to the planners' recommendations could be 'like herding two elephants,' Galvin said.
The idea will be proposed to the 12th session of the Joint Soviet-American Commission Collaborating on Environmental Protection, which will meet in Washington in January. And Galvin said Congress would have to approve of such a park.
The purpose of the park, which is still nameless, would be to protect the culture of the indigenous Bering region natives; to preserve scenic areas and the plants and wildlife; to promote scientific research and protect historic cultural sites; to encourage understanding of the common heritage of a region now divided by an international border; and to promote friendship.
The virtually untouched Soviet side offers a wealth of archeological sites for scientific research, Galvin said. He said the Chukotka Peninsula has 'fantastic archeological resources in incredibly good shape.'
Creation of such a park would give scientists and the public an opportunity to see resources that are now essentially off limits in the Soviet Union, Galvin said. However, even creation of the park will not make it cheap or easily accessible. The Bering Bridge preserve now has no accommodations, no roads and only a handful of hardy visitors.
The Soviets and Americans spent 10 days touring the Chukotka Peninsula, 10 days traveling the Seward Peninsula, then a week in Anchorage poring over maps and ironing out their protocol and recommendations.
For one member of the Soviet team, Tasyan Tein of the Soviet Academy of Science Northeast Research Institute in Magadan, there was an added bonus: He discovered Eskimo relatives in Alaska.