Great Land Trust, Municipality Dispute 60 Acre Swath

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Great Land Trust and the municipality of Anchorage have locked horns over 60 acres of wild land, including fragile wetlands.  The land, now in private ownership, was to be purchased by the Trust and then donated to the city of Anchorage as a park.  The Trust has raised almost $7 million for the purchase, and the city was to put up $2.7 million for the project.  But a week and a half ago, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan decided to pull the city’s money out of the deal.  Great Land Trust Executive Director Phil Shepherd says he can’t understand the city’s position.

Shepherd says the parcel of land is noted in the municipalities 20-20 development plan in numerous instances, after a series of public meetings was held to identify open spaces.  The land is in pristine condition because it was held by two old Anchorage families.   Now the families wish to sell it.

But the city’s $2. 7 million contribution is crucial.   That money is designated for wetlands projects, but Mayor Dan Sullivan says there are other projects in the city that need completion, too.  Sullivan said today that the park project was undertaken during a previous city administration.

Sullivan says, park or not, the wetlands portion of the land will always be protected under law, but the city needs more money  on the tax rolls.

Mayor Sullivan says the city is looking at the possibility of splitting the land between high end development and the wetlands.  He says he’s meeting with the Anchorage Community Development Authority, an entity which works with the city to make development purchases, to see if a partnership with the Great Land Trust can be worked out.

Sheperd says more than a hundred private donors, and organizations like Ducks Unlimited, US Fish and Wildlife and the Rasmusson Foundation have helped fund the park idea. If a compromise with the city can’t be reached,   the grants funds and donations will have to be returned.

Download Audio (MP3)