Alaska mayor offers cash to push state on visitors center

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough wants the state deliver on a promise to build a visitors center at a new fish hatchery in Fairbanks and he’s offering an incentive to see it built.

Mayor Luke Hopkins said Thursday the borough will kick in $20,000 in bed tax money to help open a visitors center at the $50 million Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery, which opened nearly two years ago, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1l6Z1aF) reported.

Hopkins acknowledged that it will take a lot more than $20,000 but said he hopes the money will motivate the state to open the hatchery to the public, at least for summer tourists.

“It’s supposed to have been opened a long time ago, and there hasn’t been any movement I’m aware of that the state is moving forward,” Hopkins said.

The state leases the hatchery land from the borough for $1 per year. The deal stipulated that the hatchery would include a visitor center complementing nearby Pioneer Park, the Carlson Center and Growden Park.

“We’ve been in discussions for over a year and a half with the state,” Hopkins said. “We’ve given them a $1 a year lease for certain benefits, and I’m getting tired of waiting for these benefits called for in the lease.

“I don’t want to have to write a letter (to the Department of Fish and Game) saying, ‘You’re not following the rules in the lease,”’ he said.

Terry Thompson, the department’s statewide communications and outreach director, is responsible for developing the Fairbanks visitor center and one for a new $100 million Anchorage hatchery. His job was created in December. He said the Fairbanks visitors center is a priority and a primary focus will be making a plan to pay for an exhibit and staffing it.

“We want to make sure when we open the doors we meet the expectations of the local community,” Thompson said.

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