Anchorage Assembly preparing $10M ballot question to improve access to Chugach State Park 

Sign Leading to the parking lot of the Basher Trailhead
Parking is very limited at the Basher Drive trailhead in Anchorage, pictured here on Aug. 3, 2023. An initial list of projects to improve access to Chugach State Park includes design work for more parking here. (Shiri Segal/Alaska Public Media)

This past April, voters who live in the Anchorage Bowl approved the creation of the Chugach State Park Access Service Area in a 60-40 split. It created a way to levy new taxes on property owners specifically in the bowl to pay for road work, better parking and related amenities to make it easier for people to get into the heavily used, 495,000-acre park. 

Now, the Anchorage Assembly is working on a package of specific projects, as well as the new property taxes and bonds to pay for it. Then, voters would decide whether to approve the package in the April municipal election. 

Assembly member Randy Sulte said the point is to have more residents share the costs of maintaining various roads into the park, instead of just a few small neighborhoods shouldering the burden in their property tax bills. 

“So the purpose is to essentially … to provide funding for the road service areas that experience heavy traffic use going to the park, yet the road service areas themselves are rather small and unable to support that volume of traffic and road maintenance” he said. 

On Thursday, Sulte and members of the Glen Alps Road Service Area board presented the Assembly with an initial project list that was based off of outreach with other road service area boards. Four came back with projects: Campbell Airstrip Road Service Area in East Anchorage, and the Upper O’Malley, Glen Alps and Bear Valley service areas in South Anchorage.

Assembly member Daniel Volland took issue with that process because he said it gives a few private property owners outsized influence to obstruct access to the public park. 

“For me, it was all about what’s in the public interest, the wider public interest, and all about public access to trails,” Volland said. “And so, I don’t want us to be in the position of asking permission from local homeowners about creating that access.” 

As an example, Volland brought up the extended saga around a few property owners who are hostile to public access to the Stewart Trail along Potter Creek.

The project list presented Thursday includes design work for more parking for the Basher Trailhead, engineering to relocate a flood-prone section of Campbell Airstrip Road and repaving various other roads. 

Volland also said that he’d like the project list to have a better mix of amenities, not just road improvements.

Assembly Chair Chris Constant said he thinks the body must come up with a workable package of projects no later than November to meet deadlines to prepare for the April election and the bonding process. 

The current proposal asks for $10 million in bonding authority, to be repaid over time with a tax increase on properties in the Anchorage Bowl. 

Under that structure, a majority of Anchorage Bowl voters would have to approve the increase in taxes to repay the bonds over time, and a majority of voters in the entire municipality would have to approve the bonding authority.

Assembly members Randy Sulte and Zac Johnson, who represent South Anchorage, are leading the work on the proposal.

homes on a hillside
Anchorage’s Hillside neighborhood, pictured here on Aug. 25, 2023, is situated on the foothills of the Chugach Mountains. Several trailheads into Chugach State Park are only accessible through Hillside. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
a portrait of a man outside

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

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