Clear Cutting Parks for Public Safety

#Anchorage #Parks and Rec Chief John Rodda recently appeared before the Northeast Community Council to respond to claims that P&R were again trying to disembowel Russian Jack Springs Park.  While Rodda was serving in Eagle River the last time P&R tried to clear cut RJSP, he took “full responsibility” for “thinning out” the woods along major trails in the Park as he was only “responding to public safety concerns.” See,

If Rodda received any calls (and that is dubious and may be a smokescreen – see below) such complaints make vivid one element of Anchorage’s polarization;  emigration is arguably turning our community into a village of Outside Wusses. I use the term wusses because it has been in the press of late, but I am not talking about code for too little testosterone.  I am talking about people who move to the “Last Frontier” and then want to turn it into downtown LA. People who want to kill all the geese, moose, and other wildlife because they have unreasoned fear of the unknown.  And these same folk are afraid of the dark, are afraid of the woods (“dark and deep”.)  Deliver us from fearful folk trying to save the world from their own shadows!

Parks and Rec simply does not “get it”. They apparently will happily cut down as much growth as possible to satisfy a hand few of whiners while ignoring hundreds of thousands of others. Why? The only way this makes sense is if that was their intent in the first place (remember the P&R proposal to clear cut a major chunk of RJSP??)  I think this betokens an attitude that parks are only grassy places, and trees should only be an occasional ornament. I mean, now that we have an urban forester I at least thought he might have something to say about letting a bunch of criminals wantonly hack down our park forest.  I apparently don’t have a clue as to what a forester does in Anchorage,  because he apparently doesn’t having anything to say about whacking down our urban forest!

In any event, back on the East side of Wussville, the NECC was having none of it. Pelted with questions Rodda admitted that he had no record of the calls he had received complaining about the trails, was not present and did not supervise the cutting so had no personal knowledge of what was actually done, knew that the inmates who were employed were not supervised by P&R staff, knew that at least in one case work done in the Park went amiss because of lack of supervision.

In fact, P&R had sought grant funds indicating they intended to thin out the forest in RJSP and did not share those ambitions with the public (perhaps because, as we saw last year, the public is not agreeable to efforts by P&R to cut down trees in the MOA, especially in a Park designated as a preservation zone!) What becomes clear is that a) P&R is not credible, b) P&R has an agenda that is not public, c) that private agenda includes disemboweling RJSP.

Rodda also indicated at the NECC meeting that at a “briefing” held at the Mayor’s conference room to discuss private attempts to create a destination park in the north side of the Park (which is near several existing playgrounds) he heard nary a negative word.  But the meeting was only informational  (i.e. it was a dog and pony show for the private agency to parade about their intentions) and the President of the NECC was there and did express the NECC’s opposition.  Moreover, Rodda admitted that he has received and reviewed ALL the resolutions from the NECC (some half a dozen over the period of the last year) castigating the attempt to allow private agencies to dictate park development.

RJSP has a Master Plan and the Plan sets out some important points, including but not limited to establishing a preservation zone. Rodda intentionally acted to violate the Master Plan in that respect, has indicated he has no compunction with violating other aspects of the Master Plan AND is alleged to have said that he would rather see the $750,000 (less money wasted to date) held by the Anchorage Park Foundation sent back to the legislature then spend a penny of it on updating the Park Master Plan. He has indicated that in his mind the nameless few stating support of matters important to him are far more critical than the thousands represented by the NECC or testifying against clearing forest in the Park.