Brief History of North Campus Lands
Photo looking from the T-field toward the Potato Field. Taken in 1916. Rasmuson Library, Experiment Station collection. Box 1, Volume 2.
1905 Georgeson Selects Land for Fairbanks Experiment Station. The history of the UAF Trails essentially begins in 1905, when Dr. Charles C. Georgeson selected four sections of land for the new Fairbanks Experiment Station. (Click below to view map of original campus boundaries)
1906 Experiment Station Land Granted. In March, 1906, the federal government granted the Fairbanks Agricultural Experiment Station the 1,394 acres Georgeson had identified.
1908 The Potato Field is cleared. The "Potato Field" was cleared for production in 1908. When the discontinuous permafrost under it melted, large thermokarsts were formed, particularly on the eastern side of the field. By 1926, the eastern side was severely mounded and had to be returned to natural vegetation. The rest of the potato field was used for hay production until 1988. A second field, dubbed the "East Field" was cleared at about the same time and was on the site of what is now called the Deer Yard within the BioSciences Research Reserve. A "Berry Field" lay farther to the east in what is now the BioSciences Research Reserve. It was used to test cultivated berries from around the world.
1911 The T Field is cleared. Clearing of the T-field, which is shaped like the letter T, began in 1911 and by 1915, a field of Finnish oats was growing there (see photo at the top of this page).
1915 Congress approved the transfer of 2,560 acres in four full sections of land, including the original Experiment Station Land, to the Territory of Alaska "with the express condition that they shall be forever reserved and dedicated to use for an agricultural college and school of mines."
"As winter finds our campus" from the UAF Yearbook, Denali, 1934.
Looking toward the College from the Farm, 1934.
1930s Yaks were raised in the Potato Field. Four bounds were set to encompass 320 acres of natural boreal forest composed primarily of the south facing slope of Miller Hill and the Smith Lake Wildlife Preserve. Many years, most people referred to the landmark as "the Yak Field." Over the past 20 years, it has reverted back to "potato"--though potatoes haven't grown there since the 1920s.
1940s Troy Pewe documents the thermokarst in the Potato Field later published in his study, Geologic Hazards of Fairbanks Area: Alaska Division of Geologic and Geophysical Surveys, Special Report 15, 1982.
1945 The first USGS geomagnetism and seismology site was established in with a 100-year lease reserving 40 acres at what was the western edge of the university (to the east of the current Museum site) . In the 20 years following the initial lease, the campus grew and was forced to 'leap frog' the USGS site to expand its facilities, establishing West Ridge. Recently, the USGS moved its equipment to the more remote site located northeast of the Boreal Arboretum.
1950 The Smith Lake Wildlife Preserve. According to the Minutes of the Board of Regents Meeting in May 1950, the Regents approved a proposal by UAF President Terris Moore that an area around Smith Lake "be made a park with no cutting of trees permitted." Moore, a well-known mountaineer and skilled pilot, parked his Super Cub at Smith Lake during the winter. Boundaries of the area differ on different maps. Some report the southern boundary to be the southern boundary of Section 36, others have the southern boundary slightly below the section line, but all agree that the Potato Field was excluded.
1950 The GI Ballaine Lake Research Area. The Geophysical Institute (GI) developed the Ballaine Lake Research Area beginning in 1950 to provide a low-noise research site for the GI. A Minitrack satellite receiving station was built at the Ballaine Lake site in preparation for the International Geophysical Year in 1957. The site was largely abandoned in the late 1960s. In 1996, the University Fire Department burned the unused buildings in training drills. Two buildings remain standing: the rifle range and the Minitrack building. Although an effort was made to clean up the area, the access roads are still bordered by discarded equipment, wire, pipes and abandoned structures.
1964 Exotic Tree Plantation. The plantation, started by Dr. Les Viereck of the Institute of Northern Forestry (INF), provides space to grow trees and shrubs from different areas to compare varieties and ecotypes under similar conditions, and space to accommodate seedling stock and conduct experiments. The INF, part of the U.S. Forest Service, leased the northern 2.03 acres of the T-Field from UAF. 5 When the initial 15 year lease expired in 1979, INF renewed and expanded the lease to include 4.53 acres. 6 Currently, the Exotic Tree Plantation is not being maintained on a regular basis due to a lack of funding. Nevertheless, ecology and botany classes and tourists and scientists from other Circumpolar North countries visit the Plantation regularly. (See below for link to map).
1965 Microphones to study Microbarums In 1965, Dr. Charles "Bucky" Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Geophysics at the UAF Geophysical Institute established a triangular array of microphones to study microbarums (short period infrasonic waves) on the north campus lands. Three microphones remain: one near Ballaine Lake, a second by Smith Lake and one close to the Experiment Station.
1967 BioSciences Research Reserve Established. The Institute of Arctic Biology (IAB) established the BioSciences Research Reserve in what had been the East Field and Berry Field. They fenced the compound, which over the years has housed facilities to study many animal species, such as reindeer, arctic hare, bears and ground squirrels (See below for link to map).
1968. Boreal Arboretum Established. At their meeting on May 16-18, 1968, the University of Alaska Board of Regents passed a proposal to establish a "Boreal Arboretum." According to their minutes, Dr. Horace Drury, Chair of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on the Establishment of a Boreal Arboretum, presented his committee's report outlining the proposed site, estimated cost, and the value of such an undertaking to students, scientists and the general public. After hearing Dr. Drury's report, Regent McFarland moved, and Regent O'Neill seconded, that the University establish the Boreal Arboretum as outlined by Dr. Drury. The motion carried. [Drury's 1968 committee report will soon be available on the Trails Web Site]. In 1984, Basil Hedrick prepared a "Synopsis of Events and Status Report" on the Arboretum for the Chancellor. He cites the following goals of the Boreal Arboretum: "1) environmental education for University and general public, 2) appropriate recreational use of trails and certain other areas in the Arboretum (cross-country skiing, hiking, picnics), 3) scientific research in an area immediately accessible to University personnel. The Arboretum is seen as complementary to and interrelated with the University Museum's Herbarium and the Wildlife Preserve." He also mentioned that the southern boundary of the Arboretum was the section line between Section 36 and section 1 (See below for link to map).
1981. The Rifle Range located to the west of the Minitrack building was built in 1981. The $50,000 required to build the baffled structure came from a $1.5 million grant received by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in an effort to promote gun safety by establishing rifle ranges statewide. The range was replaced by an indoor range at Patty Center and has not been used extensively since.
1988 A North Campus Plan prepared by the NRM 630 planning class.
1993 Smith Lake Conservation Area Plan prepared by the NRM 630 planning class [this may be put on the web site if there is interest].
1995 New USGS College Observatory. The USGS completed construction of a new College Observatory in 1995 on a site northeast of the Boreal Arboretum (See below for link to map).