Program Area: Human Services
Grants Received: 2002: $100,000
The downtown sets the tone for a city; it is often the center of both commercial and social activity. The vitality of downtown Fairbanks can be seen as analogous to the condition of the Chena River. Previously the heart of old Fairbanks, the Chena became a neglected landmark, limiting downtown Fairbank's recreational and aesthetic appeal. In 2001, Festival Fairbanks undertook the Barnette's Landing Beautification project, re-energizing the river and bringing back the vigor that once defined downtown Fairbanks.
Initially created to promote the Silver Anniversary (1999) of Alaska Statehood, Festival Fairbanks continues to play a key role in enhancing the image of the Fairbanks community. By bridging the public and private sectors, their work benefits all residents and visitors of Fairbanks.
The Barnette's Landing Beautification Project was commissioned to commemorate the centennial of Fairbanks. Located on the Chena, the Landing was in dire need of restoration to increase its aesthetic appeal. These changes were designed to improve the quality of life and serve as a lasting tribute to the first 100 years in the Tanana Valley. The construction of pedestrian and bike pathways, conservation of riverbanks, and repopulation of indigenous flowers and plants work collectively to improve the condition of the river. Six blocks of decorative wood and metal fencing portray the Alaska Range, steamboats, and salmon, providing artistic vignettes appropriate to the recreational and natural climate of downtown Fairbanks.
Individuals and businesses alike enthusiastically received the Project's ambitious goals. Festival Fairbanks' fundraising campaign obtained the support from a variety of public and private sources, including The Helen Snedden Public Parks Foundation, local community members, Master Gardeners of the Tanana, and University of Alaska Georgeson Botanical garden. The garden clubs and Master Gardeners planted over 2,000 square feet of flowers. Local unions and North Star Halfway House Center provided in-kind labor for the construction aspects of the restoration project. Ultimately, the combined effort raised sufficient funds to exceed Festival Fairbanks initial expectations. Father Scott Fisher of St. Matthews Episcopal Church marvels at the project's results, "Ever since it's been up, I've been watching people use it. The young and old sit out there and talk. Before there was no place to rest except [on] our lawn or picnic tables." In addition to the overall benefits reaped from an enhanced riverfront environment, the local community donors received recognition via small signage placed within the flowerbeds. The success of the Barnette's Landing project is multidimensional, Michelle Calvillo, Executive Director of Festival Fairbanks, Inc. states, "Barnette's Landing Beautification Project began with a need, and a dream by some who believed we could create a lasting tribute to the first 100 years of Fairbanks as a city……We dedicate this riverfront beautification to the indomitable spirit that still exists in our town today as we strive to bring the river back to a place of honor in the heart of our town." Bill Stroecker, born on First Avenue, Fairbanks in1915, believes the Landing improvements hold an unmeasured importance, "A wonderful thing, this river. It was the only way you could come and go before the railroad came along…..The river never looked this good."