By Pat Pourchot
Chugach State Park is perhaps Anchorage’s greatest natural asset. Not only does it provide a scenic backdrop to much of the state’s largest municipality but offers a wide variety of close-by recreational opportunities to local residents including hiking, skiing, snowmachining, biking, climbing, wildlife viewing and more. It is also an attraction for visitors enhancing economic benefits through tourism.
One and half million folks visit the Park annually—70% by local residents, 30% by visitors. And use continues to rise with a 50% increase just in the past three years. While the Park is loved by residents and visitors alike, not everyone is being accommodated in the Park’s nearly one-half million acres. Much of the use is concentrated along the park boundary with the Anchorage Bowl where access is increasingly limited by new urban development, lack of parking and trailhead facilities, and stretched park management capabilities. Just visit any one of the few developed trailheads on a sunny weekend day and see cars overflowing parking areas onto nearby narrow access roads.
Land use plans involving the Park, including the Hillside District Plan (2010) and the Chugach Park Access Inventory (2002), have long identified access issues and needs. Much of the Park’s boundary falls outside the Muni’s Park and Recreation District, and consequently, the Muni lacks the authority and tax revenues for needed recreational enhancements. Coupled with the lack of adequate State funding, this situation has thwarted needed access, recreational development, and management.
Proposition 6 on the April 4 Municipal election ballot would provide a new reasonable and viable approach to this access problem. This proposition would create a new Chugach State Park Access Service Area (CASA) within the Anchorage Bowl. It would not mandate any new taxes for residents or any specific projects. However, it would provide the mechanism to submit future proposals to the voters for funding approval through bonds or areawide taxation. Future projects to improve park access could include trailhead developments, road and parking improvements, and management to address the effects of park users on local residents.
Let’s continue to make Anchorage a great place to live and work by supporting Proposition 6!
Pat Pourchot is a 50-year Anchorage resident, former Commissioner of the Alaska State Department of Natural Resources, former Chugach Park Citizen Advisory Board Member, and Chugach Park trail construction volunteer.