A Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly member thinks Pioneer Park is the perfect final destination for the “Into The Wild” bus, currently in state storage, but he’s not opposed to other display options in Fairbanks either. He is working on a resolution proposing that the bus be moved to Fairbanks.
On June 18, the Alaska Army National Guard collaborated with the state to move the renowned bus from it’s longtime remote spot out Stampede Trail. The bus was made famous by the book and subsequent movie “Into The Wild” and attracted visitors making pilgrimages to the site every year for decades. Some of those travelers died during the journey. Many more were rescued.
The fate of the bus had been discussed and debated for years. But most folks were caught by surprise when the bus was unexpectedly helicoptered out of the wilderness.
“As soon as I heard about it, it popped into my head that Pioneer Park would be a great place,” said assembly member Aaron Lojewski, who is spearheading the resolution with co-sponsorship of assembly members Frank Tomaszewski and Jimi Cash.
“Fairbanks is the gateway to the Interior,” Lojewski said. “It would be a benefit to our visitor industry, and that is needing all the help it can get right now.”
He envisions the bus on display, along with a small museum featuring information about backcountry survival and interpretive signs.
“It’s a perfect fit,” he said.
And so, he began drafting the resolution, which is still undergoing revision, and hopes the public will weigh in when the final resolution is introduced July 23.
The Fairbanks Antique Car Museum is also wanting to acquire the bus, and Lojewski said he is not opposed to that option.
“They would be good caretakers,” he said. “I’m not opposed to that. But I would like the borough to make an offer.”
Pioneer Park is easily accessible to the public, and Lowjeski thinks more people could get to the bus and enjoy it if it was located there.
The title of the resolution is “A Resolution Offering to Preserve and Display Bus 142, The ‘Magic Bus,’ in Fairbanks, Alaska.” The current resolution says the bus “is of significant historic value to Interior Alaska and should be used for the public benefit.”
Moving it to Fairbanks would turn it into a valuable public artifact with a bright future, according to the draft resolution.
The Antique Car Museum’s plan would be to include it among the museum’s outdoor displays. The bus would sit in a secluded spot, at the end of a path through the Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary. It would be considered an educational display, and there would be no charge to view the bus.
“We wouldn’t restore it to running condition, but we would restore it to stable and displayable condition,” said Tim Cerny, who owns the museum.
He suggested that the state could even maintain ownership of the bus, while the museum became its caretaker. The museum has that kind of partnership on a few other exhibits, he said.
“For us, it would be connected to the Alaska transportation story,” Cerny said. “The bus lived in Fairbanks originally. We tell those transportation stories.”
Explore Fairbanks appears to support either one of those options.
“Would be awesome to have Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142 back home in Fairbanks where experts can preserve and interpret its history,” wrote Deb Hickok, director of Explore Fairbanks, in an email.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is still considering all the options, according to spokesman Dan Saddler.
The state is in no hurry to make a decision, he said.
Lojewski is looking forward to presenting the resolution at the next assembly meeting.
“I have a hunch it will be very positively received,” he said.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.