Pioneer Park 2020

The front entrance sign to Pioneer Park is seen, Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Fairbanks. Caitlin Miller/News-Miner

What do you love about Pioneer Park? What would you change and what is your vision for the park’s future?

Now is the time to share those thoughts as the Fairbanks North Star Borough works toward developing a master plan for the 44-acre historic park. This plan will help guide future development, operations and management for the community.

A public hearing, via Zoom, will be held  6-8 p.m. on Tuesday. The direct link to the Zoom meeting is https://zoom.us/j/91006922375. You can also comment online at www.FairbanksPioneerParkPlan.com. Click on Contact to find the online form.

Pioneer Park opened in 1967 as part of the Alaska ’67 Centennial Exposition, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Alaska’s purchase from Russia. The park featured a zoo and rides in those early days. It was then renamed Alaskaland. In 2001, the name changed again, this time to Pioneer Park.

Operated by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Parks and Recreation, the park commemorates early Alaska history. The Pioneer Museum and the Pioneer Air Museum are both located at the park and historical artifacts are displayed throughout the park — including many historic cabins that now house gift shops. The first church in Fairbanks is located here, as well as a house once owned by Judge James Wickersham. The Tanana Valley Railroad Museum opened at the park in 2006. The SS Nenana sits in the middle of the park, a sternwheeler that carried passengers and cargo on the Tanana and Yukon Rivers from 1933 to 1954. It is the second longest wooden-hulled ship still in existence. Restoration efforts are under way. 

There are also many open public spaces, playgrounds and cultural activities available at the park. Hundreds of thousands of visitors enter the park every year. There is no admission fee.  

Many of the park facilities are in need of maintenance and improvements. According to the public hearing announcement, “FNSB is seeking ways to manage, and fund those updates while also improving the park experience for visitors.”

The Pioneer Park Master Plan “will address basic deferred maintenance and economic sustainability for the park as well as a strategic vision to drive revenue, growth and engagement in the park. 

“The Master Plan develop process will include a park user survey, public engagement workshops, meetings with an appointment Advisory Committee, and development of a solid business strategy to achieve and sustain the community’s vision.”

The Master Plan is scheduled for public review and approval in September 2021.

More information is available at www.FairbanksPioneerParkPlan.com.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.