Anchorage needs this park

I don’t think I’m what you’d really call a tree hugger. The thought of hugging trees honestly makes me very nervous. I mean, they have bugs and insects and sap and all that icky foreign stuff a city kid like me learned to fear at birth. When you consider I left the city for Barrow, where no trees have grown for a very long time, you can understand that my adult life has not exactly been filled with trees either.

However, I am a firm believer in respecting nature and the great outdoors because without trees we would run short on oxygen and I, quite frankly, have gotten used to breathing the stuff. Since trees apparently inhale our exhaled carbon dioxide and then reverse the process, exhaling it as oxygen, I say more power to them. (And may I also say to my college botany teacher, “See, I told you I paid attention sometimes.”)

My basic relationship with nature is that if nature stays outside and allows me to stay inside, then I think it should be allowed to just run wild. And that brings me to a topic that has filled my e-mail box this week – the proposed purchase of 60 acres of land at the mouth of Campbell Creek to be donated to the municipality of Anchorage for a city park.

From all I can gather, this seems to be a pretty sweet deal. Taxpayers are totally off the hook since the Great Land Trust will pay for the land prior to turning it over to the city. The Trust has raised the funds needed to pay for clean up of the property and address conservation needs of any park developed there.  State Fish and Game would manage the wetlands portion of the property, again alleviating the need for the municipality to kick in any money.

So if this deal is so good why is the mayor nixing it? If, in fact, the mayor’s reason for nixing the deal has to do with his desire to develop the land for housing, why isn’t there vocal support from people wanting that housing? Why isn’t there a hue and cry of support from developers? Why does the mayor purport to be representing private homeowners when the only private homeowners involved are the ones supporting the Trust’s plan for a park?

Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, let me make it perfectly clear that given a choice between a walk in the woods and an afternoon on the couch reading a book about life in medieval England, the book and couch would win every time. So I am not asking these questions because of some vested interest I have in creating a park where I can walk my dogs. Truth be told, the only reason my dogs are even willing to walk around my neighborhood is because they know they get a treat at the end of the walk. The woods hold no interest for them.

But it does seem to me, having lived in two cities with magnificent park systems, that having green spaces that regularly break up the monotony of city blocks is something worthwhile. And to be brutally honest, given what passes as housing in this town, green spaces are critical to keep us all from running screaming into the night at the sight of one more set of Levittown like condos crowded in on one another with no space for parking, playing or neighborhood.

Given the general ambience of what gets built in this town, we should all be beating down the door at city hall to get Mayor Sullivan to change his mind on this subject. We’ve got all the ugly housing we can stand. We don’t need another development of mindless cul-de-sacs that have taken the beauty and wildness of our state and beaten it into the mass of exchangeable bland matter that passes for homes for far too many of us.

What we do need is some of that wilderness kept close, even for those of us who don’t use it all that often. It cleanses our air, eases our minds and soothes our souls.

For goodness sake, if Philadelphia and New York can create amazing green spaces in their crowded urban environments, surely Alaska’s largest city can too.