When the Alaska Department of Transportation unveiled its plan to expand the Bethel Airport there was some controversy within the community. The plans called for a road to run right through the Alaska Territorial Guard Park in Bethel. DOT has scrapped that plan with a little push from the state legislature.
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Bethel Democratic State Representative Bob Herron is a Veteran and Vice-Chair of the Joint Alaska State Legislature Veteran’s Caucus.
He says he and the group were not too happy to hear about the DOT’s plan to displace part of the ATG Park to make room for the planned Bethel Airport expansion.
“And we communicated to the Department of Transportation that interfering with hallowed ground of the civilian cemetery, the veteran’s cemetery and the ATG was unacceptable,” Herron said.
In previous interviews with KYUK, officials at DOT, said initially they did not realize the airport expansion plans were drawn to displace part of the ATG park and cemeteries.
“Once they considered the comments that they received the comments from my office and the Veteran’s Caucus and just the realization that there are other options that there are other options that would be far more popular,” Herron said.
The proposed airport expansion calls for an extension to the crosswind runway and rerouting Tower Road in Bethel. Herron says that no matter what, the ATG park and surrounding land is safe and the DOT is working on amending it’s plan.
“They would redraw the map so to speak,” said Herron. ” And they will return to Bethel in the near future for another review proccess on the crosswind runway and consider other options and ask people’s advice.”
Herron says he asked the DOT to put in provisions to help ‘enhance’ the area around the ATG park in its new plan. That means things like making sure the park is easily accessible to traffic.
The Joint Alaska State Legislative Veteran’s Caucus is composed of members from the House and Senate, from both sides of the isle.
Herron says legislators who were not in the caucus supported the initiative to amend the expansion plan.
“Every legislator down here has a family member that has been a veteran in some way,” Herron said. ” Grandpa, father, mother, daughter, cousin… everyone has a veteran in their life.”