I would like to commend Rep. Zack Fields and the other signatories of the letter to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll, recently published by the ADN, for shining a spotlight on the important issue of illegal encampments in Anchorage’s parks and trails. Everyone who lives in the area knows that tents, semi-permanent structures and massive trash piles have proliferated in our parks and trails over the last few years.
Good work has been done by the city in the past few weeks, though, in clearing encampments from Chester Creek, followed by clearing the tent city by the Lutheran Church on 15th Avenue and A Street. Resident volunteers have also done remarkable work collecting and disposing of the campers’ garbage along A Street, along the Chester Creek Trail and even in Chester Creek itself. Sadly, the Anchorage Waterways Council, which spearheads the creek cleanup, is considering abandoning the creek cleanup after this year because “volunteers, including children, have encountered far more human waste and syringes along their cleanup routes than in the past.”
City officials should be less defensive and welcome state involvement and help. I hope state attention will bring increased financial support, logistical support and new ideas or approaches in our continued and increased efforts to keep our parks and trails clean, safe and beautify places to recreate that we want for ourselves, our families and visitors to Anchorage. This is an issue that can and should attract broad bipartisan support and solutions.
Chester Creek Trail, Campbell Creek Trail, and the Coastal Trail are the jewels of our city and Anchorage is the gateway to our state. We cannot allow Anchorage’s parks and trails to become permanently overrun with encampments, trash, needles and human waste. I agree with Rep. Fields and the letter’s other signatories that the city can and should be more proactive and aggressive in cleaning up the massive amounts of waste generated by the camps and in immediately clearing encampments which pose an unreasonable public health and/or safety risk to trail users and the community. The city should be more proactive in not allowing encampments to take root in the first place and not wait until they are firmly entrenched and require heavy equipment or a team of city workers to remove the vast trash piles left behind. I look forward to working with state and city elected officials to solve this problem.
— Adam Winner
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