Point Possession now part of refuge

Feds buy peninsula land for $3 million

Posted: Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Point Possession has been sold to the federal government and will become part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit environmental group, brokered the $3.3 million sale of the 4,247-acre tract by Native corporation Point Possession Inc. to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Point Possession is a knuckle of land that points north toward Fire Island. Developers had hoped to turn it into a resort community. Conservationists wanted to see it kept in its natural state. And tiny Point Possession Inc. wanted to cash in on the land it selected under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Conservationists and Native corporation shareholders say they're thrilled with the sale. People who hoped to develop the land are disappointed.

''My family was there when Captain Cook landed, so we're really glad it's going to stay as it was,'' said Norman Kallandar, president of Point Possession Inc. ''I think everyone's really happy that the Fish and Wildlife Service ended up with it.''

Laying anchor on June 1, 1778, at what is now called Point Possession, Cook sent boats to check the two arms of water that border the lowlands that would later be developed into Anchorage.

Cook then filled a bottle with some coins and documents claiming possession of the land in the name of Britain's King George III. A party led by a lieutenant, James King, stepped ashore.

There, according to research by James Kari at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, they met about 40 local Dena'ina villagers, displayed the flag and buried the bottle. It has never been found.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said he was disheartened by the news of the sale. The administration had hoped the land could be developed to diversify the Nikiski-area economy.

Florida developer Ralph Ritteman bought the same land from Point Possession Inc. in 1998 with plans to turn it into a lavish planned resort community with hotels, restaurants and golf courses. But Ritteman defaulted on his purchase two years ago and Point Possession Inc. foreclosed on the land. Refuge managers and the Conservation Fund seized the opportunity.

''We worried that Point Posses-sion had gotten away from us and were relieved to have a second chance to protect this important wilderness area,'' said Brad Meikle-john, the fund's state representative.

The purchase, which closed Aug. 27, was made with federal funds secured by Sen. Ted Stevens.

The property borders 3.5 miles of Cook Inlet and occasionally offers views of the Anchorage skyline. It holds 30 lakes. It is exceptional habitat for moose, brown and black bears, and tundra swans.

It is an old-growth forest, one of a few corners of the northern peninsula not touched by a major wildfire in 1969, said Robin West, refuge manager.

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