Despite Community Outcry, Anchorage Assembly Moves Ahead with Chester Creek Realignment

Photo © Jerrianne Lowther: Realigned creek near Grass Creek Village & Begich Middle School west of Muldoon.

The Anchorage Assembly has passed a resolution to move ahead with the Chester Creek Realignment in the Muldoon neighborhood.  Eastside community members turned out for the regular meeting Tuesday where Assembly members were deeply divided on the issue.

East Anchorage Assembly Member Paul Honeman led the charge to stop the Chester Creek Realignment from moving forward. He argued assembly members should vote against a resolution to move ahead with the project, which would move a creek, opening up a piece of land at the corner of Muldoon and Debarr for development.

Photos © Jerrianne Lowther: Chester Creek in natural creekbed east of Muldoon Road.

“The community has spoken many, many times loudly and clearly, I don’t believe I need to tell any one of you that they really would prefer to have the entire section there as a community park, a town square park their in Muldoon,” Honeman said.

Honeman pleaded for more time for community members to air their concerns about the project, and to propose alternatives. Assembly member Chris Birch argued the project would be in jeopardy of losing funding if the Assembly did not act.

“The municipality made a significant public investment and ML&P did as well in this property. Ah, the plan has been set out here for realignment. It’s actually been…the position has pretty much been fixed by the construction and the development that’s happened on the west side of Muldoon in this area, as far as the creek location I think postponement just further delays the development here. I think the grant money is important to the cause and I’m a no vote on postponement,” Birch said.

He was backed by the Municipal Manager, George Vakalis.

“This project goes way back in history. It’s been on the books for many years. We do know that there was several different alignments that were looked at over the years. This is the preferred. This is the one that was agreed on by all, as far as the federal agencies, and the state agencies,” Vakalis said.

Assembly Member Elvi Gray-Jackson, said that leading up to Tuesday’s Assembly meeting her email inbox was inundated with emails asking her to vote to postpone the matter.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Grenier: A 2011 gathering in the Muldoon Park Strip / Muldoon Town Square Park.

“And we’ve also heard from Representative Peterson and Senator Wielechowski asking us to do the same. Yes, it’s been on the books for a long time and it’s been out there in the community, but the community has changed. There are people who are in our community now, in that particular community who were not there in the past,” Gray-Jackson said.

In the end the Resolution to move ahead with the Chester Creek Realignment passed 6 to 5.The passage of the resolution is troubling to Stu Grenier who is a Board Member of the Northeast Community Council.

“There’s just the potential for Muldoon to be something more than what the current powers that be envision it. But unfortunately we’ve got the people who don’t live there making the decisions,” Grenier said.

Grenier says the Northeast Community Council isn’t giving up on the park.

“It really helps having a central park of sorts to have a concept of community,” he said.

And they’ll hold a tour of the controversial property to garner support at the end of the month.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.