July 27, 2008

New Fish and Wildlife Center in the Works for Tok Area

By Margaret Bauman, Alaska Journal of Commerce, Anchorage

Jul. 27--A new federal/state visitor center in the planning stages for an area near Tok, just 91 miles from the Canadian border, has moved another step forward toward welcoming upward of 100,000 visitors annually.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said July 11 that they recently purchased 8.3 acres of private land along the Alaska Highway, about a mile east of the junction of the Alaska and the Glenn highways.

The proposed 9,000-square-foot Alaska Public Lands Information Center will include a 6,800-square-foot visitor center with interpretive and informational exhibits, traveler rest area, interpretive trail and parking area. Officials said they have not yet determined the cost.

The center would serve as a year-round rest and information facility for people traveling the Glenn Highway to Anchorage, the Taylor Highway into the Fortymile Country/Dawson City, Canada or those continuing on the Alaska Highway to Fairbanks.

"We hope it will not only serve the summer visitors, but Alaska residents as well, at they go into the Yukon and points beyond," said Heather Johnson, supervisory park ranger at the nearby Tetlin Wildlife Refuge. "We are developing a new film to be shown there and an exhibit area, and study classroom for environmental education."

The center would also work closely with the existing Tok Mainstreet Visitor Center, operated seasonally by the Tok Chamber of Commerce.

Funding, however, is subject to appropriations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Gary Pohl of USKH Inc. in Fairbanks, said July 11 that the completed design has been sitting on the shelf for three years for lack of funding. The wood frame building will employ green construction principals, but as yet the client hasn't requested us to achieve a LEED rating, Pohl said.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED green building-rating system is a voluntary national standard for development high-performance, sustainable buildings. The LEED program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a national group of building leaders working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to work.

State and federal officials, meanwhile, have been working with USKH Inc.'s Fairbanks office on a building and site design plan that is nearly 80 percent complete.

The next phase will be to have the project added to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Project list for construction funds. USFWA will be responsible for the exhibits and interior furnishings for the center. Currently the project ranks third on the USFWS construction priority list for the Alaska region and in the top 10 of planned National Wildlife Refuge System visitor centers nationwide.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at [email protected]">[email protected]


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