Anchorage is a paradise for summer and winter outdoor activities, especially in our wonderful parks. Recently, I was fortunate to visit the outstanding facilities at Westchester Lagoon in West Anchorage. The sun was shining on the well-groomed, paved trails around the lagoon. Beautiful shrubs and flowers graced the area, and sculptures enriched the view. In addition to the many benches for resting and viewing the scene, vendors provided refreshments to complete a delightful Monet-like afternoon in the park.
Sadly, I had to return to my neighborhood of residence -- Muldoon. Muldoon has several pocket parks and playgrounds. Muldoon citizens and its Community Council have struggled for years for the completion of a proposed park at the intersection of DeBarr and Muldoon Road. Funds for completion have been authorized by the Legislature in the amount of $1.5 million. These funds have not been released due to a conflict over the routing of Chester Creek, which flows through the property.
Meanwhile Muldoon residents, (many who reside in high-density housing), are denied the opportunity to recreate body and soul in the manner of those in West Anchorage. Since I am older and can recreate on my own spacious deck, I put my concerns aside, and celebrated the fact that my children are grown and I am not confined to a small rental apartment or house with numerous little children and a limited play area.
However, I do have a conscience, and today it was fully activated. This afternoon, friends invited me to join them at the annual community picnic at Abbot Loop Community Park off Elmore Road. The drive down Elmore was smooth and nicely landscaped. None of those annoying hopscotching potholes and strip mall distractions of Muldoon Road. At Elmore and 80th, we turned off into a beautiful scene of manicured sports fields on one side and a paved parking lot as large as that at our new Walmart on the other. In the distance, a handicapped accessible paved path led up a green hill. At the summit, mature forest and majestic mountains embraced the Taj Mahal of park pavilions.
Sturdy two-story posts supported a magnificent green shingled roof with four, yes four gables, one on each side. In the center of the pavilion, a majestic stone fireplace rose through the roof. Restaurant size grills were located on two sides of the fireplace with polished stone seating surrounding the towering Chimney. Additional stone seating areas enclosed the perimeter of the shelter. Wow, I thought, this is the pavilion to top all pavilions!
The picnic was catered and the food was excellent. But as I chowed down on ribs, chicken and hamburgers, I reflected on our community picnic in Muldoon. We have a nice site for our proposed park at the intersection of Muldoon and DeBarr Road. Our "park" is currently landscaped with gravel, dust, dirt and weeds. When we have our community picnic, everyone pulls in and parks anywhere in mud or dirt, depending on the weather. Our Community Council tries hard and volunteers are plentiful.
However, there is a lot of difference between Westchester Lagoon, Abbot Loop Community Park and our picnic place. Our refreshments are served under an 8-by-10-foot canopy set on aluminum poles. The food is good but limited to hotdogs and water with ice cream bars for dessert. The Muldoon Lions Club provides games for the kids, and the politicians grab and grin just like at the other community picnics. We see friends we haven't seen since last year and everyone has a good time.
It does seem a little unfair that our neighbors to the South and West enjoy such splendid surroundings while we picnic standing up, shouting over the sound of roaring traffic on Muldoon Road. Plans for the park include nature trails to the head of Chester Creek, sports fields, open grassy play areas and facilities where our residents can picnic in comfortable circumstances.
Muldoon doesn't need another strip mall. We need a designated space to enjoy nature and renew our spirits, physically and emotionally. Our community would benefit from the fulfillment of this long held dream of a community park. Funds have been appropriated. So I ask: When will Muldoon get its share of the pie?
Mary Jones is a 34-year Alaska resident dedicated to compassionate activism and tireless community involvement in East Anchorage.
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