A neon palm tree sign that stood in front of the defunct Paradise Inn on Spenard Road for over 50 years is at the center of a dispute between a local businesswoman and the federal government.

Bernadette Wilson calls the palm tree a piece of Alaskan history that should be preserved. The federal government claims Wilson mistakenly kept the sign after a demolition project and now they want it back.

Wilson owns Denali Disposal, a company that was hired to clean up the property after it was seized by the federal government when the former owner went to prison on drug charges.

There's no dispute that a federal marshal told Wilson the government wasn't interested in the palm tree, and that as long as she took it down, she could keep it.

Wilson said the tree was removed with the marshal's consent and placed in storage. But, a few weeks after the fact, Wilson got a phone call she describes as "threatening" from the U.S. Attorney's Office saying there had been a mistake and she needed to return the tree. The issue wound up in court and a federal judge ruled against Wilson.

Wilson said she doesn't know why the federal government changed its mind, adding that she has already spent "tens of thousands of dollars" between its removal, storage and her own attorney fees.

She's afraid the government might auction the tree to someone out of state. She says it needs to go where Anchorage residents can enjoy it, and she's promising to do that. 

"There is a 100 percent guarantee that that sign is going to stay here," said Wilson. "Does it go in the museum? Is there the opportunity to go up next to the windmill in Spenard? Are there other people who have ideas as to where it should go? Absolutely," said Wilson.

The judge has given Wilson until April 24 to either return the sign or appeal the case. She said she's not sure yet what she'll do.

But one thing she has decided is that she wants her story to go public. To that end, she's created a music video and added more information to her company's website. You can see it here. 

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