Senator drops plan to rename Fairbanks airport

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Stiff public opposition has convinced state Sen. Gary Wilken to drop his proposal to rename Fairbanks International Airport after the late William Ransom Wood.

''We'll figure out some other way to honor this great man and his legacy,'' Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said Friday.

Wood was a University of Alaska president, a Fairbanks mayor and head of a nonprofit organization that promoted community improvements. He died in February at the age of 94.

Wilken sees Wood's legacy as that of dedication to the community he loved. After 13 years building up the university, Wood chose to remain in Fairbanks, Wilken said.

But critics took Wood to task for his support as university president for Project Chariot, an aborted early 1960s government proposal to create a harbor off Northwest Alaska using nuclear bombs. Critics also say Wood played a role in ousting two university scientists who criticized the project.

Wilken has said that what he characterizes as ''reconstructionist history'' fails to provide a balanced view of what truly happened decades ago.

Wilken said the most people he spoke with who opposed the renaming did not do so because of concerns with Wood himself. They just firmly believed that the Fairbanks airport should not undergo a name change, he said.

''The public has spoken with a very clear message,'' Wilken said. ''Most of them would say, I love Dr. Wood, but I love our airport too.''

Wilken's bill to rename the airport unanimously passed the Senate last month but became snagged in the House Rules Committee.

Chairman Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, said he had received hundreds of e-mails, public opinion messages and phone calls against renaming the airport after Wood.

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