Dingman: Muldoon needs a park, not another strip mall

As I look out at the blue sky and mountains from the balcony of my north Muldoon penthouse, it's hard not to contemplate how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place and in a city so rich in culture and diversity.

Growing up in Anchorage, one of my sources of pride is our tightknit community wrapped inside of a big city. This is why when I heard someone downplay the importance of our parks, it struck right at my core.

We are a diverse community of folks who bike year-round, cross-country ski, climb and hike. We also enjoy great live sports from the high school ranks, the collegiate athletics at UAA, the future stars in the Alaska Baseball League and professional hockey from the Alaska Aces.

We also love the arts, and attend Broadway-style performances at the Performing Arts Center as well as the up-close-and-personal plays at Cyrano's Off Center Playhouse, Out North theater company and Anchorage Community Theatre.

Recently when I was a guest on the Dan Fagan and Glen Biegel Show, we discussed the issue of a Muldoon park strip and co-host Bonnie Cameron asked, "Who would pay for this park?" I explained that the city would pay for the park, at which point she expressed her frustration that a city would pay for a park.

Where exactly all the funding for the park would come from has yet to be seen. According to www.munibudget.org, Parks and Recreation makes up for just 5 percent of the Anchorage municipal budget. Much of the funding and support for our public parks comes from the Anchorage Parks Foundation.

Since its beginning, the Anchorage Parks Foundation has done 138 different projects or improvements, including the enhancements to the Baxter Bog trail, signs for the Kincaid Park trails, the beautiful Delaney Park Strip tennis court resurfacing and projects at many community parks around the city.

Regardless of where the funding comes from, parks are a fundamental part of the character of a city. Anchorage is very much defined by the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, the Music in the Park program at Peratrovich Park downtown, the sprawling expanse of the Delaney Park Strip and, according to the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department website, "10,946 acres of municipal parkland; 223 parks with 82 playgrounds; 250 miles of trails and greenbelts linking neighborhoods with surrounding natural open spaces and wildlife habitat (135 miles of paved trails); 110 athletic fields."

The "Muldoon Park Strip" or "Muldoon Town Square Park" has been in the minds of many of us Eastsiders since the trailer court at the corner of Muldoon and DeBarr was removed. With all the mobile homes gone, the empty space brought to mind many ideas of what Muldoon could be.

The two Muldoon community councils, Northeast and Chester Creek, both support using the entirety of the land for a park strip. Some people want to turn the land facing the street into commercial development. In March, former Anchorage Assemblyman Adam Trombley wrote an ordinance that designated the land for park land. It passed the Assembly 9-2, but did not survive a veto by Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Defending the ordinance on Alaska Public Radio, Trombley said, "Well I mean, my gosh, look at the area. I mean you have very high density housing -- very tight. You do have some parks intermixed in there but not a lot of open green spaces."

Just as the Delaney Park Strip helps to define the south downtown area, and the Coastal Trail helps define West Anchorage, a Muldoon park strip could provide that "open green space" that is missing from East Anchorage. It would also provide a great place to play for East Anchorage's very diverse community that needs a break from the high density housing and the hard commercial scene that comes to mind when you think of Muldoon.

Muldoon is never going to be known as a neighborhood of greenbelts. The district lit with the neon of commercialism is what we think of when someone mentions our community -- and that's fine.

However, there is more to Muldoon than our cover would suggest. Muldoon has a variety of housing, including mobile home parks, high-density apartments and beautiful single-family homes with perfectly landscaped yards.

We've waited too long and been denied too many times. Nobody can argue that we lack commercial districts in Muldoon, but that can definitely be said about parkland. While some may dream of the sprawling expanse of more site condos, I'd prefer to see a beautiful Muldoon greenbelt.

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s. Email him at michaeldingman@gmail.com.

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, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

Mike Dingman

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s.