A spate of violence near Anchorage's Valley of the Moon Park in the past month has led an Anchorage state lawmaker and two other women to organize a Thursday night event with a 1-mile walk and music, chalk messages and access to information about public safety programs.
On Facebook, several hundred people indicated interest in the "Own the Night" event, organized by East Anchorage Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, Anchorage doctor Juliana Shields and University of Alaska Anchorage student Judy Jessen. Spohnholz said the idea emerged out of a thread among the three women on Facebook.
The event was slated to start at 7 p.m. with a 1-mile out-and-back walk from Valley of the Moon Park to Gorilla Park along the Chester Creek Trail. Spohnholz said there will also be live music and opportunities for people to learn more about programs where residents can get involved in public safety.
That will include Green Dot, a violence prevention program; Trail Watch, a program that deploys volunteers to patrol the city's trail system; and citizen watchdog efforts like Neighborhood Watch and community patrols, Spohnholz said.
Two people were killed in Valley of the Moon Park in August, and a third person was shot and killed at an intersection about two blocks north near Central Middle School in mid-September.
Spohnholz is running for re-election, but said her campaign wasn't a motivator in organizing the event.
"No … we all had this feeling of, 'Let's do something positive,' " Spohnholz said.
The event will also include chalk. Jessen organized a chalk event at Central after a man was shot and killed Sept. 13. The project drew dozens of people and led to encouraging messages and images festooned on the sidewalks near the school.
Jessen said she hoped to re-create the chalk project at Valley of the Moon on Thursday night.
"We just wanted to keep building on that community spirit and reminding people that not only are we able to come together, but when we come together, we make our community and trails safer," said Jessen, a human services major at UAA.
She said she hopes similar events emerge at the park in the future.