Park of the Week: Kiwanis Fish Creek
The kids in the Turnagain neighborhood say their park is the best in Anchorage and here’s the number one reason why: the zipline.
Kiwanis Fish Creek Park is south of Turnagain after you take a right on W. 35th Avenue, where it turns into McRae Road.
The entire area has undergone a big revamp in the last several years that neighbors say makes their area more walkable and a better place to get to know the people who work and live around them.
This is definitely an area the muni is targeting to be a more family-friendly, commutable, and an overall more desirable place to hang out after neighbors expressed concern over safety back in 2011.
The muni is now in the middle of a Greenbelt Improvement Project that will eventually hook up Fish Creek Park to other parks in the Turnagain area.
On the up: Turnagain from McRae south to nearly Spenard around Fish Creek is more walkable, drivable, and a more pleasant to hang around. Just a few years ago, neighbors say the park was littered with graffiti and littered with liquor bottles. Now, thanks to a combination of money from the muni, federal government, and private funds, Fish Creek Park is well lit and newly designed.
“You come out here almost any afternoon after school and work and there will be a lot of people just hanging out and socializing, and it's become kind of the centerpiece of the neighborhood in a lot of ways. It's not just getting in your car and going to work and coming home, you get out and mingle with the people you live near, which is great,” says neighbor and frequent parent visitor JR Wilcox.
Best for ages: older than 3. While my 4-year-old loved the zipline, she was almost too young to handle it herself. My 1-year-old, August, kept running across the line of fire from the zipline: watch out! It’s in the middle of the playground and poorly placed for little ones who can toddle but have no sense of where they are toddling to.
I will, however, say that August loved the roller slide that was the perfect size for him to walk up just a few short playground steps and then launch himself down.
Fish Creek is also an all-inclusive playground, so the roller side is great. No matter how hard he tries to go fast, the rollers stop him from getting too much speed and flying off the end. Also, while the zipline can be a little too much for a barely-4-year-old, on the other side is a track for a swing, which is not only great for a child in a wheelchair, it’s also great for a 1-year-old who is way beyond exhausted and refuses to fall asleep.
By the way, there are only two ziplines in the more than 80 playgrounds in Anchorage. The other one is another of our Parks of the Week, and you can find it at Oceanview Park!
Ambiance: Fish Creek Park is designed with a river theme. There are giant fiddleheads for the kids to run under and lots of fish everywhere. The holdover from Fish Creek Park of the past is the concrete wall and bench that includes more than a dozen hand-painted salmon that are totally Instagrammable! I loved checking out the different themes-- everything from Alaska stars to a taxi cab and stars and stripes. August loved walking the bench to point and yell words that kind of sounded like “fish!”
Fish Creek is just a short jaunt down a rather muddy after-te-rain path and honestly not too impressive. You can’t fish here when the salmon are running and it’s rather wooded and cut off from the rest of the park. The downside was that there was a lot of trash scattered about when my kids and I visited on a Thursday morning around 10. We picked up a lot if it, including several bottles of booze. I talked to some parents and they weren’t surprised, saying that while the greenbelt is on the up and up, there’s still some sketchy behavior that happens after dark.
Random extras: the purple dinosaur is the kid’s second favorite feature after the zipline, and it’s a holdover from the previous park. While the kids tell me the old park was way, way uncool, they loved the pre-historic creature so much they couldn't part from it. As a parent, I will say it’s pretty neat. both my 4- and 1-year-old loved sitting on its back; there’s a double seat for two kids, and it can sway back and forth pretty aggressively if the big kids get some momentum.
There’s a picnic shelter you can rent if you want to host a party there. You don’t have to rent to use it but if you want a reserved time, you should book. The cost for four hours will run you $65. There is one port-o-potty on site but it’s a bit of a walk from the playground, meaning parents with littles wouldn’t want to leave your small one at the park while you walk your other kiddo to the bathroom.
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