Residents Fight Anchorage West District Plan to Keep Parks, Trails

Anchorage city lights from Point Woronzof. Photo by Kristin Spack, KSKA - Anchorage.

The Anchorage Assembly heard testimony from dozens of people opposed to the West Anchorage District Plan at their regular meeting Tuesday. One man who testified said he had discovered documents that would rule out a controversial land swap.

Dozens of people from West Anchorage attended Tuesday’s Assembly Meeting to testify against the west Anchorage District Plan. They’re worried that the plan, which includes land swaps between the airport and the municipality, could endanger the very fiber of their community and their lifestyle, which is built around the open spaces provided by parks and trails. Wayne Hall testified against any swap that would change the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

“I’ve lived in Anchorage since 1978 and been a home owner most of that time. In the time that I’ve lived here there have been many changes affecting the quality of life. Unfortunately many of them have been negative. More noise, more traffic, more crowds. But on the positive side, is the system of trails and parks that we have, though they too have been threatened and whittled down. The Coastal Trail is the heart of that system and once again it’s under attack,” Hall said.

Others testified that past leaders had tried to break up parks and reroute trails for development, but that residents had fought back and won. The West District Plan tries to represent what will happen in the west side of town over the next 20 years. One big consideration is the airport and its possible need for an additional runway. At stake is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which runs both parallel and through airport land. And there’s Point Woronzof Park. One of the people who testified before the Assembly Tuesday evening was former governor Tony Knowles. He had two suggestions: that the Assembly amend the plan to take Point Woronzof Park off the table and that they create a task force.

“After the Point Woranzof Park is taken off the table, this task force with that guideline would be charged to work with the airport stakeholders to develop a recommendation to the assembly for a mutually satisfactory classification of the parcels for the long-term horizon,” Knowles said.

Dozens testified. Toward the end of the meeting a man named Doug Campbell, who said he is an expert in land use, testified that he had discovered documents that could potentially rule out any trade that involved Point Woronzof Park. He says there is a restriction in the deed that prohibits the uses for which the land would be developed the event that a land exchange were successful and would therefore void the need for the proposed land exchange. Assembly Chair Ernie Hall and Assembly member Harriet Drummond, the two West Anchorage representatives, have passed those documents on to the municipal attorney and the planning department for review. The Assembly did not begin discussion or debate on the West District Plan, especially considering the new discovery, but is scheduled to do so July 10.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.