Make Parks & Trails Accessible to Everyone

Ms. Wheelchair AlaskaBy Kristie Lent, Ms. Wheelchair Alaska USA

Anchorage’s first indoor inclusive playground opened in early March 2022 to a crowd of eager children. Ready to play, you can see the joy in their eyes and actions. The interest in this new Fairview Recreation Center space is not surprising, as it provides a safe and inclusive place that is free from snow and ice.

Inclusive playgrounds like the one at Fairview are unique but also need to become the standard. They remove barriers, considering not just physical access but allowing all children the same access to the emotional, social, physical, and psychological benefits of play. We are so lucky to live in a city that values diversity and equality, even with recreational opportunities.

Alaskans are known for playing hard. We enjoy our urban wildernesses, push hard through the fresh snow, or spend all night outside during the midnight sun. We live here for access to these open spaces, fishing, hiking, and outdoor sports. The high quality of life is why we stay.

The infrastructure like the trails and the bridges that support our play needs repair. Asphalt crumbles and turns trails into treacherous terrain for those in bikes and wheelchairs. Bridges break and collapse, preventing access to those unable to cross streams. Repairing and replacing them sooner rather than later saves money in the long run. For less than the price of a fancy coffee at Kaladi’s, we can accomplish an extensive list of fixes in our parks for an entire year. It’s fiscally responsible and what I call an excellent investment.

Bonds allow us to repair our parks and trails and build new experiences for our city. With a YES vote on Proposition 5 Parks Bond, property owners agree to pay $1.54 per $100,000 of assessed value on their home to get nearly $4 million in 13 projects. That will retire the debt and pay for operations and maintenance.

I have looked at the numbers and feel strongly that Prop 5 is crucial to Anchorage’s economic, social and emotional health. Investing in our parks and trails infrastructure means:

  • Children and families of all abilities can play together.
  • Repairing and maintaining existing investments in safe and clean parks.
  • Funding jobs in design and construction.
  • Retaining our talented workforce – not losing our bright young minds to other mountain states that appreciate the benefits of active living and access to the outdoors.

Proposition 5 also leverages private investment dollars through the Anchorage Park Foundation. Giving to APF supports further investment in the care of your favorite spaces and places.

The 13 park and trails projects before voters on April 5 include investments in:

  • More inclusive playgrounds – $600,000 will go to playground updates across the city
  • Investing in trails such as the Campbell Creek Trail, running through 7.5 miles between Dimond Rd. and the University, passing through more than a dozen parks, including Taku Lake Park. It is a wooded oasis surrounded by industrial spaces with new restaurants for all to enjoy on their bike or wheelchair ride.
  • Chanshtnu Muldoon Park Phase II improves the existing ice skating, dog parks, and community gardens to connect the two locations across the Chester Creek Trail.

Please join me in reaching out to family, coworkers, friends, and neighbors to enjoy Anchorage for all it has to offer. Investment and care for our parks and trails are investments in the Anchorage economy and our quality of life. Vote YES on Prop 5. Anchorage deserves equal access to trails and playgrounds.

Kristie Lent is Ms. Wheelchair Alaska USA. She will represent Alaska in a national pageant in Ohio in July. She lives in Anchorage and is an advocate for inclusive playgrounds and travel without barriers.