Community Action Plan for Anchorage, Alaska

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Community Action Plan for Anchorage, Alaska

Transcript Of Community Action Plan for Anchorage, Alaska

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Community Action Plan for Anchorage, Alaska
October 2018

For more information about Local Foods, Local Places visit:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Project Contact: Melissa Kramer Office of Community Revitalization U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (MC 1807T) Washington, DC 20460 Tel: 202-564-8497 Email: [email protected] Anchorage, Alaska Contact: Elizabeth Hodges Snyder, PhD, MPH Alaska Food Policy Council, Co-Chair Associate Professor of Public Health Tel: 907-903-5799 Email: [email protected]
Cover photo credits: Top and bottom images: Action Communication and Education Reform Middle image: EPR PC



Community Story .......................................................................................................1 Engagement ...............................................................................................................3 Community Tour ........................................................................................................4 Vision and Values – DAY ONE.....................................................................................7 Action Planning – DAY TWO........................................................................................9 Action Plan ...............................................................................................................10 Implementation and Next Steps ..............................................................................23 Appendices...............................................................................................................23



The Municipality of Anchorage, or Dena’ina in the Athabaskan language, is situated in the south-central portion of Alaska, at the terminus of the Cook Inlet. In the early 1900s, soon after Alaska became a United States territory, the city grew up around the headquarters of the Alaskan Engineering Commission, the federal agency created to construct the Alaskan railway system.

The economy of the city centered on the railroad until air transportation took hold in the 1940s and 1950s. The city became an important hub for air traffic and a military base for the Air Force. To this day, Anchorage remains a critical center of international commerce thanks to an advantageous geographical location that places it less than 10 hours from 90 percent of the industrialized world.

Figure 1 – A street in downtown Anchorage features colorful wildlife art. Photo credit: Northbound Ventures

The 1960s in Anchorage were marked by two key events. The first happened on March 27, 1964, when a magnitude 9.2 earthquake hit the city, the second most powerful recorded in world history. Known as the Good Friday Earthquake, it devastated the natural and built environments and killed 139 people between its direct impact and resulting tsunamis. The second event happened four years later. While the city and surrounding areas were still rebuilding and recovering, oil was discovered on Prudhoe Bay on the Alaska North Slope. This set off an oil boom and economic shift that has endured to present day.

Figure 2 – In summer, Anchorage’s Town Square Park is ablaze with flowers and plants. Photo credit: Northbound Ventures

Today, Anchorage is home to almost 300,000 people or about 40 percent of the state's population. It is one of the most ethno-racially diverse cities in the United States as three of the most diverse census tracts in America lay within its boundaries. Anchorage is home to the top 26 most diverse public schools (100 languages spoken) and ranks in the top 15th percentile for diversity in the nation. Unfortunately, some of the most diverse neighborhoods struggle with poverty. For the municipality, median household income is ~$73,000, while in a neighborhood like Mountain View, known as a landing community for recent immigrants, it is just ~$38,000. Data pertaining to the homeless population are incomplete, but it is estimated that 20 percent are minors,



60 percent identify as Alaska Native, and 60 percent identify economic and situational concerns as the primary reason for homelessness.1
Besides homelessness, community challenges include competing development interests, violent and petty crime, and limited funding for social services. Average rates of food insecurity and overweight/obesity in Anchorage and the state mirror those of the nation, however, there are unique challenges in these statistics. Alaska imports 95 percent of its food (without similar rates of export) and ranks last in agricultural production (despite exceptional potential); and access to traditional Native subsistence foods is limited in the urban environment.
Numerous organizations and partners work with one another and the municipality to address these and other pressing issues on a daily basis. One of these groups is the Alaska Food Policy Council. Led by Liz Hodges Snyder, Co-Chair of the Alaska Food Policy Council, and colleagues, a group of stakeholders from the University of Alaska, the Mayor’s office, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and Heritage Land Bank are rallying around the prospect of revitalizing downtown Anchorage and adjacent neighborhood with food system-based economic and social development.
Their strategy is a highly-visible working urban farm that serves as a site for food production, a job training center for the homeless and transitioning populations, a sustainable farming innovation and demonstration hub, and a community center that engages the wider Anchorage community around local food production. They believe urban agriculture is an ideal mode of local food production, job skill development, and neighborhood revitalization in Anchorage for several reasons: the persistence of food insecurity and high rates of import; the urban population concentration (for both those with and without permanent shelter); the “graying” of the farming community; the resultant
1 Anchorage Local Foods, Local Places Application

Local Foods, Local Places Steering Committee
▪ Elizabeth Hodges Snyder, Co-Chair, Alaska Food Policy Council (primary local point of contact)
▪ Danny Consenstein, Board Member, Alaska Food Policy Council
▪ Rachael Miller, Board Member, Alaska Food Policy Council
▪ Micah Hahn, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health, University of Alaska Anchorage
▪ Katie Dougherty, Communications Specialist, Mayor's Office
▪ Joy Britt, Senior Program Manager, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
▪ Jim Renkert, Member, 3rd Avenue Radicals ▪ Nicole Jones-Vogel, Land Management
Officer, Heritage Land Bank
Figure 3 – Local Foods, Local Places Steering Committee Members
Figure 4 – Location of the 15-acre site on 3rd Avenue, in north downtown Anchorage. Map credit: Google Earth


opportunities for the development of associated small businesses and education; the diversity of hard and soft skills in farming and their application beyond food production; and the aesthetics of sustainable agriculture techniques. On a larger scale, their hope is to support a broader, vibrant community interested in experimenting with high-density, closed-loop, sustainable food production that is designed specifically for the region’s short growing season and cold climate.

To move forward this ambitious vision, the Alaska Food Policy Council requested assistance through the Local

Foods, Local Places program in 2017. The council’s

application highlighted the potential of the urban farm

on 3rd Avenue to blend food access, education, and

production at an important redevelopment site for the

community. This initiative resonated closely with the goals of the Local Foods, Local Places program, which are to create:

Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Team

▪ More economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses.
▪ Better access to healthy, local food, especially among disadvantaged groups.
▪ Revitalized downtowns, main streets, and neighborhoods.
The Local Foods, Local Places program is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Delta Regional Authority. Anchorage was one of 16 communities across the United States selected to participate in the program in 2018, from more than 80 applicants.
The technical assistance engagement process for Local Foods, Local Places has three phases, illustrated in Figure 6 below. The plan phase consists of three preparation conference calls with the steering committee and technical assistance team to clarify goals and arrange workshop logistics. The convene phase includes the effort’s capstone event—a two-day workshop in the community. The act phase includes three follow up conference calls to finalize a community

▪ Michelle Madeley, Presidential Management Fellow, EPA Office of Community Revitalization
▪ Viccy Salazar, Senior Sustainability Policy Advisor, EPA Region 10
▪ Running Grass, Environmental Protection Specialist, EPA Region 10
▪ Mary Goolie, Brownfields Project Manager, EPA Region 10
▪ Tami Fordham, Deputy Director, EPA Region 10
▪ Samantha Schaffstall, Management & Program Analyst, USDA Agricultural Marketing Services
▪ Tim O'Connell, West Regional CED Coordinator, USDA Rural Development
▪ Renee Johnson, Director, Business Programs, USDA Rural Development
▪ David Guthrie, Public Health Analyst, CDC
▪ Holly Fowler, Co-founder & CEO, Northbound Ventures (technical assistance consultant)
▪ Jason Espie, Principal Planner, EPR PC (technical assistance consultant)
Figure 5 – The Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Team consists of federal agency representatives and consultants.

action plan and strategize on how to maintain momentum generated during the workshop. The community workshop was held over a two-day period from August 8-9, 2018 and the activities those days are described below. Workshop exercise results are summarized in Appendix A, workshop sign-in sheets are provided in Appendix B, a workshop photo album is provided in Appendix C, a data profile in Appendix D, funding resources in Appendix E, and general references in Appendix F.

Figure 6 - Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Process Diagram


In advance of the first community session on August 8th, the local Steering Committee conducted a driving and walking tour of community projects, gardens, assets, ending at the 3rd Avenue site. Visiting federal partners and the technical assistance team joined the tour.

The first destination on the tour was Government Hill, an

old neighborhood with historic houses, where

Government Hill Commons has transformed a two-acre

overgrown lot into a multi-use gathering space and

urban orchard for the community. Through the

coordination and generous efforts of local residents, project sponsors, grant-makers, and volunteers, the

Figure 7 – Liz Hodges Snyder of the Alaska Food Policy Council provides the history of Government Hill Commons on the Local

Government Hill Commons now features rows of fruit

Foods, Local Places community tour. Photo credit: EPR

trees, raised beds, reclaimed group seating that once

graced the Anchorage downtown transit center, and a Quonset hut that serves as a workshop and storage



shed for gardeners. In early August, several different varieties of cherries, apples, and pears were dangling from trees. In September, the site can be the center of programming for young students at the nearby Government Hill Elementary School. Art work and vintage equipment dot the space, inviting visitors to explore, sit, listen, reflect, taste, and experience the neighborhood. Now established as a nonprofit organization, the visionaries behind Government Hill Commons plan to continue to cultivate what is growing on the site and expand the program and service offerings to make it a destination to be enjoyed by all at all times of the day, whether for a coffee in the morning or a family film on a Friday night. The local steering committee noted that much of their inspiration and vision for the downtown urban farm came from an early field trip to Government Hill Commons.

Figure 8 – Mr. Young, a community gardener at C Street Gardens, shares his experiences of growing food alongside neighbors. Photo credit: Northbound Ventures

From Government Hill, the group proceeded to the C Street Gardens, where the motto is, “Where we are growing community.” In existence for at least 15 years, gardeners can rent one or two of the 67 available 10-foot x 20-foot raised beds for $25 each between April and September. There is a waitlist, and neglected plots are reallocated to other growers. The city of Anchorage’s Department of Parks and Recreation manages the community garden officially, but those who use the garden also help to look after plots for their neighbors. A 10-foot-high moose fence encloses the garden and helps to protect the raspberries, squash, cabbage, chives, kale, snap peas, edible flowers, and more from wildlife. Members of the local steering committee pointed out that there are homeless encampments in the woods adjacent to the C Street Gardens. There is also the abundant and invasive species, prunus padus, or Mayday Tree, a flowering plant that shades streams and threatens Alaska’s salmon population.
The next stop on the community tour took the group to Alaska Seeds of Change, a program of Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, Inc. that engages at-

Community Tour
The community tour of Anchorage included the following highlights:
▪ Urban orchard and community gathering space at Government Hill Commons
▪ Year-round hydroponic growing by the Alaska Seeds of Change program
▪ Bountiful community gardens at C Street Gardens
▪ The welcome environment of the Gardens at Bragaw
▪ The lifeline that is the Bean’s Café and Brother Francis Parish adjacent to the Urban Farm Project on 3rd Avenue
▪ The proposed site of the Alaska Food Policy Council’s Anchorage Urban Farm Project on 3rd Avenue
Figure 9 – Key takeaways from the community tour and observations on the key community issues partners are working to address.


Figure 10 – A spectacular entrance awaits community gardeners and visitors at the Gardens at Bragaw in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood. Photo credit: Northbound Ventures

risk youth ages 16 to 24 in growing food hydroponically. Currently, the program focuses predominantly on greens and herbs, developing its expertise in year-round, indoor growing. Alaska Seeds of Change shares its space with Arctic Harvest, a small-scale aggregator for approximately 12 local farms. It operates a mini-food hub and community supported agriculture (CSA) that services about 30 restaurants in the area.
The group next visited the Gardens at Bragaw in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage. Since 2010, this garden has evolved with different partners, first the Anchorage Community Land Trust and then the Municipality of Anchorage, and it has blossomed into a beautiful and inviting community asset. The gardens are a tangible representation of revitalization of one of the city’s lowestincome and most diverse neighborhoods. The garden is decorated with vibrant signs, many created by local students and artists, that brighten the whole area and welcome everyone. The garden supports the refugee resettlement process and connects the community in important ways. Its success has inspired the development of another urban farm and farmers market nearby.

Figure 11 – A view from the northwest corner of the 3rd

The final destination of the tour was back downtown to 3rd

Avenue Anchorage Urban Farm Project site. Photo credit: Northbound Ventures

Avenue, between Inga and Eagle Streets, which is the proposed location of the Anchorage Urban Farm Project.

Formerly federal land and the site of the Alaska Native Medical Hospital, the 15-acre lot has been vacant since

the 1990s. The Heritage Land Bank manages the property on behalf of the municipality and is overseeing a

strategic stakeholder engagement process that the Local Foods, Local Places workshop was timed to inform.

The Alaska Department of Transportation owns a right of way to the property, which could pose complications

for long term use, but hopeful parties, like the Alaska Food Policy Council, are pushing ahead to redevelop and

reactivate the site.

While the property is technically in the Downtown District, the adjacent districts of Fairview, Mountain View, and South Addition have a high concentration of makeshift homeless camps, agency food pantries, meal centers, and shelters for the homeless and at-risk youth. Only about half of the property is level land, with the remainder sloping off to the three sides not bordered by 3rd Avenue. The property’s reputation suffers from misunderstanding about potential contamination. The lot was labeled a LUST site (“leaking underground storage tank”) in 1992 by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, but according to their site report, it was cleaned up in 1993. The underground storage tank was characterized in 1997, before the demolition of the medical center, and the closure was approved. There is a contaminated site across the street

at the location of a former dry cleaners. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation performed a characterization of the site in 2010 and found that tetrachloroethylene (PERC) exceeded safe levels in the groundwater and soil and was present in nearby residences from vapor intrusion. The characterization also found a groundwater plume moving into the former medical center site which exceeded EPA maximum contaminant levels. It is anticipated that the Municipality will be identifying the former dry cleaning site as a top priority for EPA brownfield contamination cleanup funding. The potential contamination issues are viewed as an opportunity to seek funds for land remediation, to educate citizens about the need to do site assessments before growing food on previously used land and how to adjust growing methods to suit environmental realities, and to experiment with novel bioremediation techniques.2
Appendix C has many more photos and additional details of the community tour.
More than twenty residents and community stakeholders attended the first public session of the workshop on the evening of August 8th. Elizabeth Hodges, Co-Chair of the Alaska Food Policy Council and local point of contact, welcomed attendees and spoke about the history of the project and the steering committee’s objective in bringing the community together for this event. She focused on the opportunity to use urban

This I believe about my community…
…We’re engaged; culturally diverse; resilient; empowered; innovative; have so much
opportunity; are very interconnected; healthy food conscious; connected to the land; able to create better places for all people; optimistic; stubborn enough to stay here; changing and
transforming; forward thinking; creative; passionate; honest; made up of many good people; a story-telling bunch; resourceful
Figure 12 – One of the exercises used to capture the community’s vision and values is called This I Believe. Participants were asked to complete the statement “This I believe about my community...” Above are some of the words that came from this exercise that reflect the positive aspects that framed the workshops action planning sessions on day two.
2 Anchorage Local Foods, Local Places Application

This I believe about local food…
…It tastes better; builds community; builds cooperation and trust; creates jobs; makes us stronger; connects us; can be leveraged for
revitalization. It is everywhere; nutritious; easy to grow; diverse; healthier; in high demand; expensive; good for bringing families together; not accessible for low-income individuals. We need more. With more education we can all do it. Not everyone
knows about its benefits.
Figure 13 – The second visioning exercise was to complete the statement, “This I believe about local foods...” A sampling of responses is above.