In a 10-1 vote, the Anchorage Assembly approved the West Anchorage District Plan on Tuesday night. The plan has stirred up a lot of controversy in the community since it includes a potential land swap that would give Point Woronzof Park to the airport, in exchange for airport-owned land given to the city.
Many are also concerned about the possibility of a redirect of the popular Tony Knowles Coastal Trail for an additional airport runway in the future. Airport manager John Parrott says there are no current plans for another runway, but the airport needs to look ahead.
"We have the capacity we need for now. On the same hand, we know that in the future, the airport will have to develop further. We're trying to show the proper foresight and make sure that we have control of the property that best serves that future development," says Parrott.
Opponents of the plan like Cathy Gleason, president of the Turnagain Community Council, are disappointed in the assembly's decision.
"Preserving the areas used as parkland, working with the airport, working with FAA. Certainly those are goals that we wanted to see achieved. But doing it through some kind of comprehensive land exchange that trades away existing dedicated parkland just to acquire land being used as parkland now, doesn't make sense to us at all," says Gleason.
During Tuesday's meeting, the assembly approved a few amendments to the plan, including the establishment of a task force to work toward a long-term solution that would include a permanent Coastal Trail.
"We give you our pledge that the Coastal Trail is always going to be there and we will defend it as valiantly as you have," said Assembly Chair Ernie Hall.