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Campbell Creek Estuary land deal moves forward

September 27, 2010|By Rhonda McBride

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The City of Anchorage looks poised to accept sixty acres of property in the Campbell Creek Estuary.

Earlier this year, the Great Land Trust had raised almost $7 million to buy the land and turn it into a park, but at the time, Mayor Dan Sullivan said no thanks to the deal.

Sullivan had originally pushed to have some of the property along the bluff developed, but now he's backed off from that and reconsidered his position.

In exchange, the city gets a pledge from the Great Land Trust to raise about $200,000 for upkeep of the property.

“We have five years. We're confident that the citizens, the business community, the foundation in Anchorage will see this as a valuable project,” said Phil Shephard, former director of the Great Land Trust.

From the area in question, one can see Fire Island, the Alaska Range and Kincaid Park. Had the land fallen into the hands of private property owners, the views might have been locked up forever, reserved for a select few.  

The land will not become an official city park, but there will be public access with a parking lot, a few gravel trails and some overlooks. Exactly how much public access will be allowed has yet to be decided.     

Shephard says the deal is very complicated.   

Since Sullivan took some of the funds the Trust had applied for on behalf of the city, they will now have to raise about $700,000 to bring the project to completion.  

The Trust says the controversy also raised the public's awareness about its mission and brought the city to some important understandings.  

“The municipality got a strong message from the citizens that the public really does value the parks, value the lifestyle that we have in Anchorage here, to have access to the coastal refuge, these big open vistas and views, to have our creeks protected,” said Shephard.

When the news broke that Sullivan had other plans for the land, the city received a flood of letters, emails and phone calls.

Sullivan says he has not at all backed down from his original position -- which was that the city can't afford to maintain any more park lands. He says this latest agreement is an entirely different deal.  

“There's been some misconceptions out there, but when you're negotiating, sometimes you start from a position of no, work your way to maybe and come to a good compromise.  So far, this has been one of those win, wins,” said Sullivan.

The Trust is working with Mears Junior High School to have students do some of the surveys, required for maintenance.

They would photograph plots of land and keep records of the plants and wildlife on them, so that we'll be able to keep track of the health of the estuary in the future.

The details of the deal are still being worked out, but the proposal is expected to be introduced to the Anchorage Assembly Tuesday.

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