October 29, 2019 – In 2019 Anchorage’s first wheel-chair accessible trail got a much-needed upgrade. Westchester Lagoon Nature Trail, originally built in 1978, was unveiled in its new form still accessible to all and now with new pavement and interpretive signs to be used as an outdoor classroom.
The project amounts to a $727,000 investment into the Westchester Lagoon Nature trail. Much of the funding came from a Federal Highways Administration Transportation Alternatives Program Grant and Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation bonds.
The inclusive trail offers unique flora, fauna, and wetlands where creek flow slacks and water begins to pool in the Westchester reservoir. It is the point where still water first opens in spring, thawing westward across the upper lagoon as temperatures rebound from winter. Ducks, geese, swans, and moose are present at various times, and songbirds abound during the summer months. The bog and creek shoreline offer a wide variety of flora. Salmon and trout are observed at various times of the year and the new amenities offer a safe place for fishing.
This project is a dream come true for community volunteers and the Anchorage Park Foundation Schools on Trails program. The Schools on Trails program introduces schools to nearby trails, parks, streams, and natural habitats. The program educates students and staff on nearby community assets, establishing connections between students and natural resources.
Seven district schools are within walking distance to this trail including Inlet View Elementary, Chugach Optional Elementary, North Star Elementary, Romig Middle School, Central Middle School of Science, Steller Secondary, and West High.
Westchester Lagoon Nature Trail is located at Spenard Road and 19th Avenue, alongside Chester Creek. From a parking area on 19th Avenue, a trail parallels the south bank of the creek and branches off in a short loop. Pedestrian access is from 19th Avenue and from the Chester Creek Trail at two points, via walking bridges at Spenard Road and Bunker Street.
Many thanks to project leaders: The State of Alaska Department of Transportation, Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation, Community Volunteer Glen Hemingson, The Rasmuson Foundation, Anchorage School District, Bettisworth North Architects and Planners, Anchorage Museum, UAF Cooperative Extension Office, National Park Service Rivers, Trail and Conservation Assistance program, Alaska Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects, North Star Community Council, South Addition Community Council and many more parents, teachers and volunteers.