Meeting held to review Alaskaland's future

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Proposals are being reviewed on an $18 million plan to renovate Alaskaland with the goal of attracting more tourists.

At a meeting Wednesday, a few dozen people milled about the main exhibit hall and filled out comment forms asking whether they agreed or disagreed with some of the ideas, such as adding an outdoor amphitheater to the park or moving the main entrance.

''What's very loud and clear is that there should be no paid admission to the park,'' said Gary Pohl, senior architect at USKH, the firm hired by the Fairbanks North Star Borough to develop the plans. ''That's something we really need to put to rest.''

The main differences between the two concepts is the locations of the train depot and the main gate.

Concept No. 1 keeps the current main entrance in place but places the Harding rail car across the park, near the river, where a new main train station would be.

Concept No. 2 moves the main entrance west and has the train station near that. The Harding rail car stays in place.

''I don't know if they could move the Harding car without destroying it,'' said Lena Dewey, a member of the board of directors of The Fairbanks Historical Preservation Society, Inc.

''It's been here since the park opened in 1967. There could be metal fatigue,'' she said.

Former Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill, sitting beside Dewey, agreed. ''It's a very heavy, old piece of equipment,'' he said.

Coghill is treasurer for the historical preservation group. He said he is opposed to turning Riverboat Nenana into a banquet hall. He said hours have been spent restoring the boat and making it a banquet hall might ruin the work.

Terry Fauth, who owns a shop at Alaskaland called Aurora Winds, said he is opposed to closing off the tunnel entrance that leads into the Gold Rush Town, where the shops inside the historical cabins are.

''A lot of our customer base comes in through that entrance,'' he said.

He also opposes getting rid of the miniature golf course. But he likes the idea of having additional train stops around the park.

''It would bring in more money for the train and it would help the people who don't want to walk all around the park,'' he said.

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