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East Anchorage should tell Assembly how much it needs new Muldoon park

"Put the park where the people are." Over the years, that sentence has come to epitomize the long-time effort by Muldoon residents to establish a new community park in East Anchorage. Although not always in the limelight, your Eastside neighbors have worked tirelessly with elected officials to secure funding for the proposed Muldoon Town Square Park, to be located at the currently undeveloped old Alaska Greenhouse site at Muldoon and DeBarr roads.

The site of the old Alaska Greenhouse is one of the last large green spaces in East Anchorage and is centrally located in the Muldoon community, a section of town with significantly less park acreage per resident than other areas of Anchorage.

On Tuesday, July 14, the Anchorage Assembly will be considering Ordinance 2015-77 to dedicate the former Alaska Greenhouse property as permanent municipal parkland. The passage of this ordinance is a critical next step in the park planning process. To ensure its passage, public support is vital.

For the following reasons, I encourage the community's support of Ordinance 2015-77 and the dedication of permanent park land for the creation of the Muldoon Town Square Park.

Park Deficiency: As confirmed by the Anchorage Parks Plan, East Anchorage is deficient in parks and recreational facilities. A benefit of the location of the Muldoon Town Square Park is that it will satisfy the needs of the park's immediate neighbors and the whole of East Anchorage.

Population Density: The Northeast Community Council (NECC) is one of the most active Community Councils in Anchorage. When the Anchorage 2020 Plan was being debated years ago, the NECC was the only community council to oppose the 2020 plan because it packed large amounts of high-density housing into this council area.

With the addition of this high-density housing comes an estimated 11,000 new residents in apartment-style homes, many without yards or areas for families to recreate. Such development, compounded by projected population growth, has only intensified the need for designated outdoor recreation areas in East Anchorage, which this proposed parkland would provide.

Neighborhood Support: Area community councils have continually supported the proposed dedication of park space, with the NECC unanimously passing resolutions of support in 2009 and 2012. The Scenic Foothills Community Council also passed a unanimous resolution in 2012.

Even now, East Anchorage residents remain dedicated to the vision of a Muldoon Town Square Park and are actively working with state and local officials to preserve appropriated funds for its development. These are neighbors who live, work and play in the area and will be most affected should this land be used for an alternate purpose. Respectfully, their opinion should be given great weight.

Community Gathering: The Muldoon Town Square Park will provide a place of gathering and recreation for the many diverse groups in East Anchorage. As is evidenced by the massive success of the recently-opened Muldoon Farmers Market, East Anchorage residents are long overdue for centralized, family-friendly gathering places to congregate and build community.

Partial Development of the Park: The purpose of the Muldoon Town Square Park is to provide a recreational place for all East Anchorage neighbors. Developing the portion of the Park Strip along Muldoon Road for commercial property, as has been proposed in the past, would isolate the Park Strip from view and would appear to limit access to the majority of residents. This is a concern that could be alleviated by the dedication of the old Alaska Greenhouse property as municipal parkland.

State Funding: With $1 million in appropriated funds for the park scheduled to lapse on July 1, 2016, it is imperative that this land be designated now to allow time for these funds to be properly encumbered and utilized by the deadline. Although area community councils have been advocating for the use of these funds since their initial appropriation, delays with the East Anchorage District Plan prevented Anchorage Parks and Recreation from moving forward with the planning process until very recently. It would be a shame for the residents of East Anchorage to see park funding re-appropriated due to delays in our city planning process.

Please join us Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Anchorage Assembly Chambers at the Loussac Library to share your thoughts on this issue of future development in East Anchorage.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat, represents East Anchorage and JBER. He was first elected in 2006.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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