Alaskaland renovation plans at standstill

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- An agreement made by the Fairbanks North Star Borough 35 years ago has halted plans to develop Alaskaland into more of a tourist attraction.

In 1967, the borough accepted $400,000 from a federal fund under an agreement that Alaskaland would be a certain type of park -- mainly one with no covered buildings and no profit-making enterprises.

''It's one of those federal mandates that seems frustrating,'' Assemblyman Rick Solie said at a recent Alaskaland Committee meeting.

Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles is working to have the limits lifted, but it could take a land swap or an act of Congress, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

''There never should have been this type of money put on a historic park,'' Boyles said.

The $400,000 came from a fund called the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The borough hasn't always followed the stipulations to the letter. But a plan in the works to overhaul the park could move the park dangerously further from fund guidelines. Doing that means cutting off future money from that fund for the whole state.

''We have stretched for the wheelhouse. We have stretched for the Railroad museum,'' said Boyles. ''I will never make a decision like that again.''

So Boyles is working closely with federal and state officials to see what projects in the plan could fall within fund rules and to have the rules lifted so the borough can freely develop the park.

Boyles and Bea Hagen, an attorney for the borough, believe the chances are slim Congress will lift the limits just because the borough wants them lifted.

''Politically, it may be difficult or impossible,'' Hagen told the Alaskaland Committee. ''I really think the land swap might work, but it's going to take Congress a long time.''

To do a land swap, the borough needs to set aside land the fund limits could apply to in place of Alaskaland. Boyles has identified South Davis Park, an undeveloped plot of land off the Mitchell Expressway, as a possibility. Birch Hill is another prospect.

This would need Congressional approval as well, and Boyles is asking Alaska's congressional delegation for help.

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