Family of Anchorage bicyclist Jeff Dusenbury wants park where he was killed named for him

The daughter of an Anchorage bicyclist killed in a notorious hit-and-run collision is leading an effort to have the park where her father died renamed after him.

Jeff Dusenbury, 51, was killed at Spruce Park in South Anchorage on July 19, 2014, when an intoxicated teenager backed into him with her truck as he headed out on a morning bike ride.

The one-year sentence handed down to the driver, Alexandra Ellis, drew outrage from some who said it was too lenient.

Now, Dusenbury's daughter, Madisen Dusenbury-Shannon, wants the city to officially change the name of Spruce Park to Jeff Dusenbury Memorial Park.

"There was a lot of anger surrounding my dad's death, and I don't want that to be the feeling that trumps his memory," she said. "I want our community to remember him for the kind, humble and helpful man that he was."

An initial public hearing on the proposed name change will be held at Spruce Park at 5:30 p.m. Thursday — the fourth anniversary of Dusenbury's death. The park is located near the intersection of Spruce Street and East 84th Avenue in South Anchorage.

The process for naming or renaming an Anchorage park works like this, according to Jared James, who works in the office of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz:


First, a naming panel is convened with the help of the mayor's office. Often that panel involves someone from the neighborhood's community council. Thursday's open meeting at the park is a chance for the public to weigh in on the proposed name change.

Then, the panel forwards a recommendation to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration. If approved, the name change proposal goes to the Anchorage Assembly, which has the final say.

The process typically takes six to nine months, James said.

The city gets a proposal to rename one of Anchorage's 226 parks every couple of years, said Anchorage parks superintendent Josh Durand.

Proposed names are often memorials to people who have died, he said.

Other examples of such parks include Whisper Faith Kovach Park on Lore Road, named after a young girl hit and killed by a car in the area in 1998.

Michael J. Shibe Park on Cranberry Road is named after an Anchorage father killed in an electrical accident at the 2005 national Boy Scout Jamboree.

There's also Bob and Arlene Cross Park, formerly Birch Park; Pamela Joy Lowry Memorial Park, former Hathor Park; and Ira Walker Park, formerly Towne East Park, according to Tom Korosei, a land manager with the city department of Parks and Recreation.

Spruce Park is a 10-acre expanse of open fields and woods in a neighborhood between Lake Otis Parkway and Elmore Road in South Anchorage. It has no playground equipment or other infrastructure and is considered a "natural resource park" by the city.

It is mostly used by neighbors for exercising pets, sledding in the winter and picnics, said Durand.

Dusenbury-Shannon said her family lived in the Spruce Park neighborhood for more than 25 years. Spruce Park itself was a familiar part of the family's daily life.

"My dad would pass by the park multiple times a week while going on bike rides, runs and family walks," she said.

Dusenbury-Shannon said she thought the park had been more visited and cared for since her father's death, due to two memorials to him already in place.

A ghost bike, painted white, is chained to a post. Another post near where the truck driven by Ellis hit Dusenbury is covered with fabric flowers, an American flag and a bicycle rim in a makeshift memorial.

On a recent sunny afternoon, the park was quiet except for a man playing with his puppy. Neighbor Layne Cropper strolled up with his dog.

Cropper said his wife was one of the first people at the scene when Dusenbury was hit by the truck.

"He died in my wife's arms," Cropper said.

The experience was traumatic, he said. Cropper said he'd attended hearings for the court case and supported the name change. He planned to come to Thursday's hearing.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a reporter who covers news and features about life in Alaska, and has been focusing on corrections and psychiatric care issues in the state. Contact her at