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Assembly member says ballot measure could solve problems for Hillside hikers, property owners

By Eric Ruble Photojournalist: Emily Landeen - 10:57 AM March 11, 2017

A measure on the April ballot would significantly increase the domain of the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department. Ballot measure 7 would expand the Parks and Recreation service area eastward to occupy a much larger portion of the Anchorage Bowl and parts of Chugach State Park.

Assembly member John Weddleton said the measure would allow the parks department to spend money to find solutions to a number of problems in places like Stuckagain Heights and Bear Valley. In one Hillside neighborhood, a property owner erected a large fence with barbed wire and a surveillance camera to dissuade people from hiking on the property, part of which is outside the current Parks and Recreation service area. Weddleton said if Ballot measure 7 passes, the department would be able to discuss the possibility of purchasing an easement from the property owner to allow people to hike on the property.

“This is a community issue. The people coming up are from all over Anchorage,” Weddleton said. “If we’re improving access here, it’s for everyone.”

Measure 7 would begin taxing the owners of 375 properties in the expanded area for parks and recreation. At $55 annually per $100,000 in home value, the Parks and Recreation Department would have approximately $121,000 more to spend each year.

“It’s not really about the tax,” Weddleton said. “It’s about being able to do things to solve this area’s problems.”

In Bear Valley, there are only five parking spaces at the popular Golden View Trailhead at the terminus of Honey Bear Lane. Many hikers park illegally on the street. Dan Toomey, who has lived nearby for 23 years, said people also litter, let their dogs run around off leash and leave behind drug paraphernalia. He does not believe measure 7 would fix the problem.

“We see this as a way to get additional tax revenue from 375 – roughly – property owners on the Hillside,” Toomey said.

He said the municipality has failed in maintaining Town Square Park, and it would be less likely to maintain property far away from City Hall. Toomey said most of his neighbors agree with him.

“We have no confidence that we’re going to see any benefit,” he said.

Weddleton argued measure 7 is the only current solution to Toomey’s problems, as it would allow for more trailheads near Bear Valley to relieve traffic at Golden View.

“I don’t really see a solution for that Honey Bear parking lot besides this,” Weddleton explained. “I mean, if we don’t have alternatives, then that continues to be the main access to McHugh Ridge and they’re stuck. They’ll just have to deal with the crowds and the litter.”

He said in order for the measure to pass, it will need to receive a majority of yes votes from people living within both the current and proposed service areas. People who live outside those areas, but still within the Municipality of Anchorage, will not be able to vote on the measure.

“It’s not an immediate fix, but the problem has been getting worse and 1o years from now, if we do nothing, it will be even worse,” he said.

Weddleton said he has the support of the Parks and Recreation Department and Chugach State Park. He will host two information sessions about the measure, when he will be available to answer questions. The first is Saturday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rabbit Creek Church. The second is Tuesday, March 28 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Bear Valley Elementary School.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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