ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Anderson, a little town in Alaska’s interior, has no gas station, no grocery store and no traffic lights, but it does have plenty of woodsy land – and it’s free to anyone willing to put down roots in the often-frozen ground.
In a modern twist on the homesteading movement that populated the Plains in the 1800s, the community of 300 people is offering 26 large lots on spruce-covered land in a part of Alaska that has spectacular views of the Northern lights and Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak.
And what’s an occasional day of 60-below cold in a town removed from big-city ills?
“It’s Mayberry,” said Anderson high-school teacher Daryl Frisbie, whose social studies class explored ways to boost the town’s dwindling population. Students developed a Web site and Power Point presentation, then persuaded the City Council to give it a go.
“Are you tired of the hustle and bustle of the Lower 48, crime, poor schools, and the high cost of living?” the Web site asks. “Make your new home in the Last Frontier!”
The 1.3-acre lots will be awarded to the first people who apply for them and submit $500 refundable deposits beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. Each winning applicant must build a house measuring at least 1,000 square feet within two years. Power and phone hookups are already available.
City Clerk Nancy Hollis said people who apply in person or have someone stand in for them will have the best shot, since the post office doesn’t open until noon and deliveries are even later from the regional hub of Fairbanks, 75 miles away.
People seeking more information are calling from such places as California, Texas, Idaho and Florida.
Locals eyeing the sites include 15-year-old newcomer Brittney Warner, a student who worked on the project. The 10th-grader, her parents and three siblings moved to Anderson two months ago from Boise, Idaho, when her father got a job at nearby Clear Air Force Station.
Warner calls her new community “very nice, small, very outdoorsy” – a place that would be even better if it brought in some new businesses. Residents now have to drive at least 20 miles for gasoline or groceries.
Her family is now living in a rental home and planning to apply for one of the lots.
“We already have a house design,” she said.
Cory Furrow, a 26-year-old electrician, said he will be in line, too. Anderson has everything he enjoys: good terrain for snowshoeing and skiing, fishing, and hunting for moose and grizzly bears.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, so when free land comes up in my hometown, I can’t pass that up,” said Furrow, who lives in his family home.
Folks in Anderson say there are some job opportunities within driving distance, including a coal mine, a utility, major hotels and the air station, a ballistic missile early-warning site. Locals also would like to see entrepreneurs among the newcomers.
In addition, they are hoping for families. The high school basketball team had to go co-ed this year because there weren’t enough boys.
Among the other advantages of Anderson: no property taxes, state income taxes or sales tax, virtually no crime, and no traffic.
“One of the resources that we have is land,” said Mayor Mike Pearson, a mechanic at the air station. “If this works out well, the city’s got lots more property.”