Alaska Life

Iconic neon palm tree returns to Spenard

The 22-foot neon palm tree has returned to Spenard.

The 1960s Spenard icon that stood in front of the Paradise Inn on Spenard Road for decades was removed last winter by a trash company hired by the federal government, which claimed the property last year after its owner was sentenced to prison for selling drugs. After some legal wrangling, the sign was returned to the federal government and put up for auction.

A Spenard community group organized by Jay Stange raised $2,700 through a GoFundMe campaign that was enough to buy the neon palm tree. Sixty people donated amounts ranging from $5 to $200.

On a rainy Tuesday, the palm tree was delivered to a vacant lot near Spenard Road and West 36th Avenue owned by Cook Inlet Housing Authority and laid on its side by Vulcan Towing, which donated its services. Cook Inlet donated the space and the fencing that went up around the tree.

Stange said the neon palm tree "represents the old and the new and the future of Spenard in a cool way. Where the palm tree goes, so goes Spenard."

The group hopes to restore the palm tree and find a public space to erect it.

While the return of the neon palm tree is a positive sign for many Spenardians, "we have a real problem in Spenard with opioids," Stange said. He's been contacted by some who say the sign reminds them of darker times. Stange said they plan to have a healing event when the sign is finally standing once more in Spenard.

Bob Hallinen

Bob Hallinen has been a photojournalist in Alaska since the 1980s and has traveled extensively all over the state. He retired from the ADN in November 2018 after 33 years at the newspaper.