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The Denali Borough Assembly will consider two ordinances involving proposed taxes at it’s next meeting on Aug. 7 in Healy

The first is a proposed 5% tax on alcohol and marijuana. The second, or alternate proposal, is a 1% increase in the overnight accommodations tax.

When Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker introduced the first proposal in June, he said, “State contributions are continuing to decline and the cost of our responsibilities are continuing to increase. While we’re still doing fine, as a borough, we do see in the future, not too far away, where we’re going to need more revenue.”

It would also help to diversify borough income, he said. The biggest share of income currently comes from a 7% accommodations tax. The last time any tax rate was changed was 24 years ago. Since 1995, 12 different tax proposals/ordinances have been introduced and failed.

Last month’s borough assembly meeting turned into a work session due to lack of a quorum. No action could be taken. But there was plenty of discussion and some testimony from the public on this topic.

Scott Reisland, owner of Denali Grizzly Bear Resort, said he is a strong supporter of the borough, but he opposes the proposed 5% tax on alcohol.

“The mayor said he wants to diversify, but the majority of money is coming from tourism, so it’s not really diversifying in any way,” Reisland said.

A tax on alcohol will be a lot of work for small staffs, he said, adding, “Just increasing the bed tax a little bit would be so much simpler.”

Erik Haugan supported the tax on alcohol and marijuana.

“A little more on bed tax doesn’t diversify,” he said. “We need to diversify our revenue income stream, and put it to use for what year round residents need.”

The list of needs can go on and on, he said.

Any measure approved by the borough assembly will appear on the November ballot for approval by voters. The borough charter does not permit any taxes without a vote by the people.

Another item on the agenda includes a plan to provide addresses throughout the Denali Borough. The assembly has two addressing options to choose from, since the Denali Borough Planning Commission could not reach consensus on which system to recommend.

Bison Gulch

The borough is close to gaining approval of a federal grant that would improve and move the parking area at Bison Gulch, a popular hiking trail south of Healy.

The trail is located at Mile 243.5 Parks Highway. But the parking lot is on the east side of the highway and the trailhead is on the other side of the highway. Easily accessible, the trail offers easy access to alpine hiking and spectacular views along the way.

The project the borough has in mind would move the parking lot to the same side of the highway as the trailhead and the trail would be re-routed so it doesn’t go straight up the mountain.

The project has a price tag of about $450,000. The borough would contribute only $10,000 to the project, according to Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker.

The grant is intended to improve access to federal lands. The trail at Bison Gulch leads into Denali National Park.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.


Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.