State buys land for Interior veterans’ cemetery

  • By WESTON MORROW
  • Sunday, August 3, 2014 9:29pm
  • News

FAIRBANKS — After years of searching and one false start, the state has purchased land it says will become the location for the Interior’s first veterans’ cemetery.

The Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced Thursday it has purchased 320 acres of land in Fox. The land is located about two miles down Goldstream Road on the west side of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline on a hilltop looking south, according to the department.

The state purchased the lot from John and Ramona Reeves, paying them $2 million for the land. The Legislature allocated the money for the purchase.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will foot the bill for the cemetery’s construction, having promised $9 million to ensure the graveyard meets the standards of the VA’s other national cemeteries, according to Kalei Rupp, a spokesperson for Military and Veterans Affairs.

The Fox cemetery will be the third veterans’ cemetery in the state and the first in the Interior. The department already operates veterans’ cemeteries in Southeast Alaska in Sitka and in Southcentral on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson outside Anchorage.

Rep. David Guttenberg said he’s delighted the state finally can begin work on land to give veterans in the Interior a final resting place nearby.

“I think it’s a long time coming,” the Fairbanks Democrat said. “Even before I started working on it there was a need for it.”

Guttenberg brought the idea before the Legislature in 2009, and the state believed it had found a suitable location last year. That location, a 40-acre plot off Gold Mine Trail, was later deemed unfit for the cemetery because of permafrost.

After the first location was rejected, the state put out word that it was willing to purchase about 300 acres of private land for the cemetery and began talks with the Reeves. Guttenberg said he believes the Reeves gave the state a good deal.

“I know the land is worth more,” he said, “but John and Ramona’s parents are Marines, and I think they recognize the importance of doing this.”

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