This website is maintained by Friends of Bicentennial Park to provide information on Anchorage's Far North Bicentennial Park.
The deal will not be broken.
Assemblyman Dan Coffey will pull his ordinance that would have removed provisions added to the Park Plan to square things up when the Simonian Little League fields were built in the Park. Public response was quick and unfriendly towards this breaking of an important agreement.
Rather than pursue his ammendment to the Park Plan, Assemblyman Coffey will work towards rewriting the Master Plan for the Park . That will mean a lot of work for us for a while. How will it end up? Thirty years ago, Anchorage made the popular decision to preserve this Park in a primarily natural state. That goal became part of the transfer documents when the land was transfered from the Federal Government. Anchorage values this natural open space even more now. We should look forward to revising the Park Plan and adding further protections for future generations.
|eMail from Assemblyman Coffey sent:
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 4:50 PM
Subject: Re: Mitigation land at Far North Bicentennial Park
I thought you might like to know my intentions with regard to the "Mitigation" Ordinance. I believe you will approve.
After about ten(10) days of comments on my proposed amendment to take "mitigation" out of the FNBP Master Plan, here's what I plan to do and why.
1) I'm going to move to table indefinitely the proposed amendment to the FNBP Master Plan which would delete "mitigation". This will happen 11-22. As you all know, this will effectively kill the ordinance.
-I'm doing this even though I believe I have the
support of a majority of the Assembly to pass the
Let me know what you think.
What was the issue here?
In late 2002, Anchorage's Assembly chose to build a ballfield complex where a longstanding law said "no active ballfields." To give some balance to that decision, the city agreed that a similar amount of land would be added to Far North Bicentennial Park. That is called the "mitigation land."
That same agreement reinforced that Far North Bicentennial Park should remain as natural park land by requiring that future developments would need an amendment to the Park Plan approved by the Assembly.
The ordinance that allowed the ballfields to be built (AO 2002-165) was the result of over two years of boisterous public debate. The mitigation land was an important part of the deal. The assurance that future development in the Park would undergo close scrutiny and Assembly approval reinforces earlier protections. Remember, this is not an ordinary park. In our nation's bicentennial year, this land was given as a gift to Anchorage with the requirement that it be preserved as primarily a natural area. That requirement is an irrevocable part of the documents that transferred the land to the city.
In October 2005, Assemblyman Dan Coffey submitted Ordinance AO 2005-162 that would remove the requirement for mitigation land for developments in FNBP. He also wanted to remove the requirement "... to ensure the integrity and continuance of Far North Bicentennial Park as public lands with the principal purpose of preserving those lands in as natural a state as possible and allowing for the public enjoyment of the same." (Click that link to see the ordinance. Note that CAPS mean it's deleted and underlining means it's added. This can get a little tricky. Both AO 2002-165 and the Coffey Ordinance modify the Park Plan. Coffey's ordinance undoes the parts of AO2002-165 that benefit natural open space users but leaves intact the parts that allow the ballfield complex.)
"A deal is a deal" The use of the mitigation land was a big part of ending the long conflict over the Simonian Little League Ballfields. If the city backs out of its agreement, or even takes this tool out of the box, future land use issues will face even greater difficulty.
The public should be consulted before there are developments in the Park that are not consistent with preserving the land in a natural state. The proposed ordinance would remove the requirement that the Far North Bicentennial Park Plan be amended by the Anchorage Assembly before more developments can occur.
Far North Bicentennial Park is a natural area. Surveys consistently show that Anchorage citizens support open space. Two carefully constructed surveys in 2004 and 2005 done for the Parks Plan Update show again the overwhelming support for wild open space and Bicentennial Park.
You can contact Assemblyman Coffey at 770-9930 and email@example.com .
Let your Assembly rep know, too. Find all the Assembly contact information at http://www.muni.org/assembly2/index.cfm .
The Parks & Recreation Commission gave the proposed changes a thumbs down.
Despite the rejection by the Parks and Recreation Commision,
the Anchorage Assembly is still poised to remove the protection
from development plus mitigation measures added to Bicentennial
Park when the Simonian Little League ball fields were built even
though the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to honor that
deal. We need your help to protect the park from this latest
On November 10, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to reject the ordinance proposed by Assembly Member Dan Coffey that would destroy a three year old agreement that provided mitigation and added protection for Bicentennials Park's natural open space in response to building a ball field complex in a previously natural protected area of the Park.
Commissioners said that "a deal is a deal", that public trust is crucial, and that respect for the beliefs of those who value natural open space is important, that those values are just as valid as those of people who want developed recreation (ball field complexes).
There were about sixty-five people at the meeting, all opposed to Mr. Coffey's ordinance, and in favor of protecting Bicentennial Park. Public participation makes a real difference on this issue.
Unfortunately, the Commission only advises, their ruling is not binding. A majority of Anchorage Assembly still favors approving this attack on Bicentennial Park. The Assembly will take up Mr. Coffey's proposal on December 13th. If the Assembly passes this ordinance, a deal will be undone and a promise broken. The ordinance actually takes away only half the agreement. It carefully removes all items important to open space users, every one. It carefully leaves in place all provisions for developed ball fields, every one. It cuts away every scrap of fairness, every shred of integrity.
Mr. Coffey's plan removes the principal of mitigation, which says that if a previously protected natural area in Bicentennial is developed, something should be done to offset that development, to maintain the balance. It also makes it much easier to develop other areas in Bicentennial by removing protections that require future development go through the Assembly, and thus through a full public process. These changes would make not only make it easier to develop, but easier to hide that development from the public until it is too late.
Please, write to the Assembly, to the Mayor, and to the newspaper to oppose changes to the Bicentennial Park Plan and Agreement. Please express your outrage at this betrayal and this further attack on the natural space in our park. Your voices on this issue truly make a difference. Large numbers of letters and e-mails will not be ignored.
For Assembly information go to: Contacts
You can email letters to the editors at:
The Anchorage Daily News at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Eagle River Star at email@example.com
On November 10, Anchorage's Parks & Rec Commission voted against recommending Coffey's amendments to the FNBP plan. The vote was 5-2 with two members abstaining and one absent. Jim Balamacci left early but said he would not support the ordinance. Commissioners Etter and Mason abstained. Commissioners Clarke and Crosby supported the Coffey amendments.
About 60 supports of sticking with the original agreement filled the meeting and spoke for about two hours.
Anchorage's Parks Director, Jeff Dillon, spoke in opposition to the amendments and said he spoke for the administration. It appears that he feels that Coffey is correct in his assertion that the Planning Department and the Parks & Rec Commission can do a fine job managing development in the Park without having the plan amended by the Assembly everytime. But he feels that the extensive public involvement in the Simonian Little League issue should not be ignored so the compromise ordinance that amended the plan should be left alone.
Jeff Clarke and Peter Crosby voted to recommend the Coffey amendments. Their main argument was that the amendments had no practical impact. Of course, that begs the question, "why dig this up again?"
The notion that "a deal's a deal" was stated by commissioners as well as several speakers. This is a fundamental issue that should resonate far beyond park issues.
The P&RC also voted unanimously to support the ordinance from Anchorage's Heritage Land Bank that would set aside 27.5 acres for mitigation for the Simonian and Chuck Albrecht fields. This will go to the Assembly on the December 13th, too.
In response to a request for his viewpoint on this issue, Assemblyman Coffey sent this concise explanation.
|From Assemblyman Dan Coffey by
1) I have no objection to transferring the 27.5 acres into Bicentennial Park. On the merits, that transfer makes good sense. Wetlands mitigation for Albrecht Fields, inability to develop the land for other uses.
2) Putting ball fields in parks is a good thing.
3) Demanding "war reparations" is not a good thing.
4) If there is no harm, which I believe there was not, then there is no need of mitigation.
5) Preservation of City parks in a "totally natural state" without any other use being permitted is not wise policy.
6) Wise policy is to allow such uses as the Park Plan permits subject to the review and approval of, at a minimum, the Parks and Rec Commission.
I hope this helps and thanks again for the opportunity.
Regards, Dan Coffey
As part of the deal that sealed the fate of the southeast corner of the Park, land was to be added to the Park to make up for the lost corner. The land was supposed to be identified within 90 days. That slipped by a few years.
The map at the right shows the area currently offered. The small tract (white) north of BLM (green hatch) is the proposed mitigation. It's about 26 acres. (The outline may be a little large.) The Tour of Anchorage ski trail cuts through a corner of the east end of it before it crosses the south fork of Campbell Creek. The Park boundary is in yellow.
In 2003, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved this area as the mitigation area. As of August 4, 2003 the specific mitigation land had not been chosen.
In Anchorage's Heritage Land Bank's 2005 Annual Work Program, the mitigation land was discussed:
Ball Field and Community Park Development in Bicentennial Park - The Assembly passed AO2002-165 authorizing the development of a 30-acre ball field and community park complex in the southeast corner of Bicentennial Park. The HLB Advisory Commission (HLBAC) requested clarification of language in the ordinance that implies HLB's responsibilities for proposed mitigation of the development might be handled by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission rather than the HBLAC. The Assembly then clarified that this is not their intention, and asked that the HLBAC to be prepared to evaluate mitigation proposals. Mitigation is expected to be completed for the ball field development in 2005." (p25)
The exact location of the land has been juggled around over time. In late March of 2005, Mayor Begich submitted, then pulled, an ordinance that identified the land. A similar mitigation land proposal should be put forward in late 2005.