Doyon Corporation Wants To Build $70 Million Airport & Cultural Terminal Near Denali National Park In Healy

Doyon Wants Tiny Town Of Healy, North Of Denali Park, Considered As Site For New Major Alaskan Jet Airport  Boeing 737 (Wikipedia)  Native C...

Doyon Wants Tiny Town Of Healy, North Of Denali Park, Considered As Site For New Major Alaskan Jet Airport 

Boeing 737 (Wikipedia) 

Native Corporation Wants Interpretive Trails & Exhibits At The Terminal 

Healy, Alaska, a small coal-mining town in the Denali Borough, is being considered by Doyon, the Department of Transportation and the Denali Borough as the site for a major commercial Alaskan airport. If the project, which was just introduced, goes through, it would dramatically change the town of Healy and impact the flow and nature of tourism in Denali National Park.

Doyon wants to hurtle the little community into the 21st century by  building a $50 million commercial jet airport in Healy – along with an $18 million "cultural" and dining area, which Doyon would operate at the airport. Apparently, the airline terminal itself would be a "destination" with interpretive trails and exhibits. 

The proposed airport would be more than a mile long, and would bring in jets up to the size of a Boeing 737. 


National Park-like airline terminal, with displays. (From Doyon proposal) 

The town of Healy is in mining country. Just outside of Healy, the "Stampede Trail" (where Chris McCandless famously starved to death in an old school bus) wanders off into the forbidding wilderness. Today, Usibelli Coal Mine is located in Healy, along the road to the current Healy airstrip, which is used by small planes and tourist sightseeing companies. Only around 900 people live in the town, and that number has apparently been decreasing over the years. You cannot see "the mountain" of Denali from Healy from the ground. 

Park-Like Proposed Airline Terminal. (Doyon proposal) 

Healy's main economic engines are its mine, its school district, and the overflow of National Park employees who need a place to live. Tourism is an important part of the Healy summer economy, due to its proximity to Denali Park, but tourism does not overwhelm Healy, which stands on its own as a community.  

There are several year-round hotels, and a number of seasonal tourist venues in Healy. There's a clinic and a fire hall, and some places for locals to eat. The school in Healy is considered one of the most important employers in town. Healy's schoolteachers have a far greater local status there than teachers do in the Copper Valley. In every possible way, it's a modest community on an Alaskan road. 

Actual National Park Building At Denali Park. (Photo, Country Journal) 

Unlike Glennallen, Healy is not "a hub". It's currently just a stop along the Parks Highway between Fairbanks and Wasilla where you can get gas or something to eat. Its major strong suit is that it has a few places you can stop even in wintertime. 

Healy lies 115 miles south of Fairbanks, and 12 miles north of Denali Park. Healy is not a Native American community. Fewer than 3% of all Healy residents identify as Native. 

Small private airstrip south of Healy. (Photo, Country Journal) 

Healy's importance as a year-round community stems from the fact that the Denali Park area is mostly open in the summer only. Denali is not a year-round "town." Denali operates something like the Homer Spit: boardwalks, tourist shops, venues, rafting companies...  all operating only in summer. 

Healy is one of the two nearby towns where people live near the National Park. The other is Cantwell. 

Cantwell, 138 miles from Paxson across the Denali Highway from the Richardson, is an Ahtna village with a small Trooper station and a school. There's a gas station in Cantwell, and some places to stay, but Cantwell, with its population of 200 people, doesn't have a grocery store. 

Cantwell is 32 miles south of Healy and 27 miles from Denali Park. Cantwell is the westernmost village of the Ahtna people, and has ties to Valdez Creek Mine, along the Denali Highway. Cantwell also has strong ties to Gulkana Village. In the past, there was a walking trail from Bear Creek near Gulkana to the Valdez Creek Mine, where parents and grandparents of some of today's Cantwell families lived.

For decades, Healy didn't have anywhere to buy groceries, either – other than a couple of gas stations and liquor stores, where "groceries" were a small add-on, with a few shelves dedicated to canned corned beef hash, or beans, or instant noodles. There was nothing in Healy remotely like the longtime services available in the Copper Valley including the Glennallen IGA (Parks Place), or Sparks Store, or stores in Kenny Lake. 

Then, four years ago, in the winter of 2018, Three Bears came to Healy, Alaska. The huge building seemed to arrive; to drop in, across the street from the Totem Inn, like a gigantic spaceship. Suddenly, in the dark winter of Healy on the Parks Highway, there was a fully-lit, glowing supermarket. This was the biggest thing to happen to Healy since the coal mine. 

The store was like a mini-Fred Meyer, and it had stepladders, tools, rows of canned goods, boxed goods, meats, fine European cheeses, and just about anything anybody would need personally – or for their tourist-related B&B or business.

It was an extraordinary change for the town of Healy. Nobody could quite believe it. They'd gone from zero to 120 miles per hour overnight. 

The visitor center run by National Park Service at Denali Park. (Photo, Country Journal) 

The idea of putting in a major world-class airport at Healy has caught some people in the tourism industry by surprise. 

In Fairbanks, where there is always concern about "bypassing" Fairbanks, Scott McCrea, head of Explore Fairbanks -- the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau -- was quoted in the Anchorage Daily News as saying "We support infrastructure growth... but don't want it to be a detriment to tourism in Fairbanks."

The Alaska Travel Industry Association apparently hadn't heard of it, either.  Sarah Leonard, CEO of the ATIA noted, to the ADN, that she couldn't make any comments yet "without knowing detailed plans." 

Some Of the interpretive trails In the Park. (Google Maps)



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