Alaskaland gets new name

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaskaland is officially now Pioneer Park.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly adopted the new name with an almost unanimous vote Thursday. Only Assemblywoman Victoria Foote voted against the measure, saying she wanted a more multicultural sounding name.

''We need to be more inclusionary,'' she said.

The vote came after an attempt to postpone the issue was defeated. Some Assembly members said they were tired of prolonging it any longer.

''We have had masses of e-mails,'' said Assemblywoman Bonnie Williams, a sponsor of the name-change measure. ''I've had lots of phone calls. We're elected to make decisions, so let's do it.''

The name Pioneer Park is the historical park's original name. It was changed to Alaskaland when the park served as a focal point for the celebration of the United State's purchase of Alaska from Russia.

The park is one of the area's main tourist attractions.

But over the years many Fairbanks residents have complained about the name. They say it conjures images of roller coasters instead of rustic cabins.

''The pioneers are the ones who originated the park and they should be recognized,'' said pioneer Merrill Hakala, one of several people who testified on the issue.

The Assembly's action came despite a memorandum from borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles requesting a visitor focus group to select a new name, since the reason for the change is to make the park's purpose clearer to tourists.

''If we are going to change the name of Alaskaland, I feel strongly that the new name needs to be targeted to increase visitor traffic,'' Boyles' memo said.

The Pioneer Park proposal called for the new name to become effective on Labor Day 2002.

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