"Now we've got all the money, the land owners are on board, the funding is in place and we're ready to do the project," Shephard said. "And now the municipality's backing out, and that's very disappointing."
Sullivan says the city cannot afford another park.
"Quite frankly, we're behind and we want to catch up," Sullivan said. "In my campaign, I made it very clear that one of my philosophies was that particularly in challenging budget times, you protect the assets you already own. You have a responsibility when you have assets to maintain them."
Sullivan says the city could also use tax revenues from the land -- if it were developed instead.
"If it were developed, you're putting properties on the tax rolls," Sullivan said. "A park takes property off the tax rolls."
Sullivan says he's not advocating that the land be developed, as that's up to the property owners. But he's gone one step beyond rejecting the park, and wants to pull about $3 million in wetlands mitigation money which the city and the trust jointly applied for during the Begich administration.
"It has nothing to do with the previous administration; it has to do with the reality of the fiscal situation we're in right now, and what's the best way to respond to it," Sullivan said.
By federal law, when construction occurs on wetlands the developers must mitigate the loss by paying into a fund overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Sullivan believes the city could divert the mitigation money set aside for the land at Campbell Creek to other projects.
"Plus there's some projects right by the port near Ship Creek -- we're trying to connect the Ship Creek Trail via a boardwalk system. This might actually allow us to accelerate that project if we redirected the monies into that area," Sullivan said.
A computer program that rates land for its conservation value has identified the Campbell Creek parcel as one of the 25 best plots in the city.
"Of the hundreds of thousands of parcels in Anchorage, these ones in red are the ones that scored the highest," Shephard said.
The Anchorage 2020 plan identified the estuary as a top priority to save. It's also listed in the city's Parks and Recreation plan, and has letters of support from the Anchorage Parks Foundation as well as from all the neighboring community councils -- even a letter of support from the Sullivan administration.
But Sullivan says the letter is no guarantee of final approval for the project.
"Yeah, I'm frustrated. Yeah, it's hard to be this far and this long into the project and feel like the municipality is backing out on their commitments to accept the property -- that's tough," Shephard said.
Eric McCallum is owner of Arctic Wire Rope and Supply, which makes heavy-duty ropes and belts, mostly for the oil industry on the North Slope. He donated $25,000 to turn the Campbell Creek property into a park.
"From a business point of view, it's a great deal," McCallum said. "And it's for everybody; it isn't just for one or two people, it's for the entire community."
McCallum says it's an investment in the city's future, and that parks like the one envisioned for the estuary will draw more commerce to Anchorage.
"I think that business in the next century is going to be more virtual, and people are going to be able to live wherever they want to live," McCallum said.
It's land that might have become the crown jewel in the city's park system: one of the last untouched estuaries in Anchorage, where the fresh waters of Campbell Creek mix with the salty tides of Cook Inlet.
"To be on the ground, on the edge of this marsh is very exciting. There's wind going through all these marsh grasses, the birds flying over. There's an active bald eagle nest on the property, so the eagles are soaring over," Shephard said. "The fresh water comes down; that mix of fresh water and salt water is tremendously productive."
Shephard says the estuary could also be a science showcase for schoolchildren.