Neon palm tree auction flops



The Anchorage neon palm tree that pit an Anchorage businesswoman against the federal government has been auctioned — except no bidder met the required minimum bid by the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

Now what?

The Marshal’s Office set a price of $4,500 for the iconic 22-foot palm tree that stood in front of the disreputable Paradise Inn for years.

Now, what stands in its place is a “Mark Begich for Governor” sign, illegally placed on what has become federal property. The scene around it looks like a set from a dystopian movie, but it’s downtown Spenard.

The motel had been seized by the federal government last year due to illegal drug activity. The trash needed to be taken out so the property could go up for auction. Trash, the marshal said, included the palm tree sign.

Bernadette Wilson, owner of Denali Disposal, told the marshal in charge that the sign seemed like something more than garbage. It was a bit of a landmark for Anchorage. Could she keep it?

Bernadette Wilson spent thousands to preserve the sign, after the Feds told her it was trash and to take it to the landfill. Then they took the sign from her.

The marshal told her to keep it — the government had no sentimental attachment to the sign and considered it trash. So she brought in a flatbed truck and carefully hauled it away with the full support of the federal marshal. It would find a home somewhere, she thought, perhaps back in Spenard, where it had lived for 50 years. Somewhere near the Koot’s windmill, perhaps, where everyone could marvel at its kitchy endurance.

In April, Wilson forked over the palm tree to the Feds, but only after a judge told her she must.

Now, without meeting the minimum bid, what will the federal government do now? Accept the $2,700 that Anchorage resident Jay Stange raised on a GoFundMe page?

Wilson said, “Coming up with the money to purchase it is one thing. Then you have to have the money to restore it. Even if someone can come up with the minimum bid, who will foot the bill to make it operational?”

Wilson spent several thousands of dollars preserving the sign, only to have it taken from her once the federal government determined that if she wanted to save it, it must have some kind of value after all.

“So are they going to give it back?” asked Wilson, somewhat rhetorically. “I spent way more money than their minimum bid taking it down and preserving it.”

Palm Tree, Part III: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s




  1. They took down a disreputable neon palm tree, and put up a hayseed Begich Bush? There goes the neighborhood.

  2. The auction is back on.

    I encourage no one to bid (min bid is currently $2,000) and hope the 2nd auction is as dramatically unsuccessful as the first.

    I hope the feds eventually decide to pay Ms. Wilson to haul it off. It has now become a monument to federal stupidity.

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