Parks and Trails have Proven their Value

Anchorage trails can take you from sweeping views of Cook Inlet to salmon fishing on Ship Creek, to diverse neighborhoods offering rich cultural experiences, and everything in between. Whether it’s walking for health, biking to work or taking one’s family to the park or a local restaurant, urban trails make Anchorage a great place to live and visit.

Now more than ever, our parks and trails have proven their value. They were there for us when we needed quality time for social distancing during the worst of this global pandemic, and they continue to be an economic driver to attract and retain businesses to our area, raise property values, and increase recreation-related spending.

For more than four decades, I operated/managed public facilities for the Municipality of Anchorage and in 2019, retired as the Parks and Recreation Director for both Anchorage and Eagle River-Chugiak, managing more than 224 parks, 250 miles of trail, 11 recreation centers, 85 playgrounds and 110 multi-use fields. It was a privilege to serve and a joy to go to work every single day.

Parks staff and our non-profit partner, the Anchorage Park Foundation, care about the health and well-being of all of you, the park and trail users we serve every day. A 2021 Parks and Recreation survey tells us that 90% of respondents believe parks and trails improve our health and well-being and keep us connected to loved ones. Trails data for 2020 prove a 15% overall increase in our multi-use trails, with a 26% increase in pedestrian use as compared to the previous five years.

This winter, park maintenance and our non-profit partners have stepped up to provide the best experience for skating and skiing and snow biking – with daily grooming and new opportunities for outdoor adventure. Winter, spring, summer and fall, we have teams working hard for you.

Parks and trails are built with park bonds. With your support, there are 13 projects slated to move forward this summer. The 2021 parks bond gives us the opportunity to invest in our trail system by starting to better connect downtown’s Ship Creek Trail to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, continue to upgrade the Campbell Creek Trail and build a new trail to Far North Bicentennial Park from the Tudor curve (Northeast Connector trail). Local bond investment leverages millions in federal dollars that would substantially improve connections within the Moose Loop that link our urban trails together.

Each year we ask you for authorization to spend a portion of your property taxes. I encourage you to vote yes. This year it’s just $1.63 per $100,000 of assessed value on your home to get $3.95 million in park infrastructure. That’s a smart return on investment.

While my background and passion is in parks, trails, and public facilities, I urge you to support ALL the bonds on the ballot this year. Roads, public safety, senior centers, safety improvements; all are valuable to improve our quality of life and attract new investment.

Join me in showing gratitude to the talented team working to build and maintain our spectacular park and trail system. Get out and enjoy yourself, improve your mental and physical health, and don’t forget to vote yes on Prop. 6.

John Rodda, former director of Anchorage and Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation