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More than 6,500 People Each Own 49 Square Feet of 49th State

June 13, 1989

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ A few miles from the Alyeska Ski Resort near Anchorage is a 7.4-acre parcel with 6,579 co-owners, who bought their 49-square-foot lots 25 years ago in a campaign to raise money for earthquake victims.

Occasionally a certificate of ownership is found hidden in someone’s attic or a family scrapbook. State officials receive a letter once every two or three years asking about the unusual certificates, said Odette Foster, an investigator with the state ombudsman’s office in Juneau.

Eloise Schmidt of Pueblo, Colo., found one of the land certificates among her late mother’s belongings and wrote to the 25-year-old address of the Rebuild Alaska Committee.

The committee was organized immediately after a March 27, 1964, earthquake that caused more than $300 million in damage in Alaska and killed more than 130 people in Alaska, California and Oregon.

The address of the long-disbanded committee belongs to a Juneau apartment building. The manager had never heard of the committee and forwarded Schmidt’s letter to the ombudsman.

″When I came across this, I got curious about it,″ Schmidt said in a telephone interview. ″I vaguely remember my mother saying she was going to send in some money to get a little piece of land in Alaska.″

In response to Schmidt’s request, Foster researched the land transfer, the fund-raising committee and the legal status of the land.

″It’s not really clear if all these folks who bought this land really own this land,″ Foster said Monday.

The state apparently gave the land to the Rebuild Alaska Committee in 1964 at the suggestion of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, but the transfer was not legally recorded. Nor were the 6,579 individual transfers recorded when the land was given to people in exchange for their donations, said James McAllister of the state Division of Land and Water Management.

The parcel is a few miles from 5,505-foot Bird Peak in Chugach State Park, about 27 miles southeast of Anchorage. It is inaccessible by road and the certificates of ownership grant the state perpetual right to manage the property as wilderness.

The certificates of ownership lack several items needed for a legal deed, Foster said. But that doesn’t mean they are worthless.

″The deed may have collector’s value as a novelty item,″ she said.

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