Delighting and uniting

by • November 28, 2016 • 61 North, HighlightsComments (0)225

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Participants take part in a parade along the Fish Creek Trail during the Fish Creek Festival earlier this fall. The festival celebrated improvements and resurfacing of the trails and improvements to two new playgrounds. Photo by Sarah Zerkel.

Neighbors, families and community members band together to improve Fish Creek Trail

Salmon marched, polar bears trudged and woodland fairies gamboled down Fish Creek Trail at the Fish Creek Festival on Sept. 10. Put on by the Trails Initiative – a coalition of neighbors and community members led by Anchorage Park Foundation – the Fish Creek Festival celebrated groundbreaking on the long-anticipated resurfacing of Fish Creek Trail and ribbon cutting on two new playgrounds in the Turnagain and Spenard areas.

The 3-in-1 event followed a unique itinerary, starting at the Kiwanis Fish Creek Park in Turnagain. A delighted crowd of neighbors and families milled about, tasting artisan treats from the Spenard Farmer’s Market food trucks, listening to music and taking part in the ribbon-cutting for the Kiwanis Fish Creek playground. “I like an event that has many reasons to come,” said Beth Norlund, Executive Director of Anchorage Parks Foundation and event-organizer.

Community members from various sides of Fish Creek Trail, which divides legislative districts, gathered to take part in the celebration. Ultimately, Nordlund said, the day’s festivities were meant to unite the community “both physically and metaphorically.”

I – along with my two insubordinate puppies and dutiful husband – arrived just in time for an impromptu parade, which included both costumed families and conventionally clad neighbors, all walking along the trail, led by Nordlund.

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Sarah ZerkelCostumed creatures jumped from the woods during the Fish Creek Festival in late September. The area will receive resurfacing as well as the construction of two inclusive playgrounds, for children of all abilities. Photo by Sarah Zerkel.

I’d never seen this stretch of the Fish Creek Trail, and as I followed the crowd, I could see the need for improvement: roots pushed up through some segments of the pavement, and minor frost heaves created a washboard in places.

After about a half mile, our first stop came at Barbara Street Park, where a new playground was unveiled. This, along with the new Kiwanis Fish Creek Playground, is part of Anchorage’s growing repertoire of inclusive parks and movement to provide areas where kids of all ability levels can play together.

Nordlund said the inclusive playgrounds were made possible by partnership with neighbors, community councils and the foundation. The trail resurfacing, she said, will be paid for through Proposition 4—a parks and recreations bond. Passed in April, 2016 the bond is a $175,000 match to a federal grant going toward the project.

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Below, Beth Nordlund helps with a ribbon-cutting at Barbara Creek Park.

Next, we continued on to the final stop at Woodland Park for a viewing of fire trucks and a traditional Filipino Tinikling dance performance. After the dance, we meandered back to the starting point, enjoying my favorite part of the trail parade: the “woodland fairies.” Played by Momentum Dance Collective, the camouflaged fairies swayed and moved artfully in the surrounding trees. If not for the excited “oohs” and “aahs” of perceptive children these silent performers could easily be missed. One even took in the sun, lying on a fallen log over the creek.

Overall, Nordlund said, the event was a prime example of “neighbor power,” and a large community effort around several projects happening simultaneously. With community members coming from around Anchorage to enjoy the trail and activities, it’s easy to see why, in Nordlund’s words, trails are “the easiest way I can think of to build community.”

With the new additions and soon-to-be resurfaced trail, the area is sure to continue to win support from trail users and playground goers. Fairies or no, I will certainly be returning to enjoy the trail and surrounding area.

Keep an eye on new projects rolling out from Anchorage Parks Foundation. Go to anchorageparkfoundation.org for more information.

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