Adding Park Amenities

In Anchorage, Alaska, there’s no shortage of opportunities to be outside. Paved bike/multiuse trails cover 135 miles, and the 495,000-acre Chugach State Park serves as a reminder that the wilderness is (in some cases, literally) right out the back door.

New trails and fields mean a win-win for soccer and skiing at Kincaid Park. Photo Courtesy Of USKH

The municipality of Anchorage counts 190 parks covering 10,000 acres, which range from play structures and picnic shelters to dog parks and virtual wilderness. And yet, despite the amount of readily available parkland, a void existed.

The growing soccer leagues played on low-quality fields (uneven, swampy, or in some cases, predominately gravel) scattered throughout the city, making tournament play a logistical nightmare for parents of several soccer players in one family.

The solution came about from a local landscape architect and planner, Dwayne Adams, FASLA, who was in the right place at the right time. As an initiative to turn 10 acres of the 4,000-acre Far North Bicentennial Park (a mostly natural park) into four ball fields for Little League was hotly debated during an Anchorage Assembly meeting, Adams realized that if 10 acres could cause this much controversy, the need for 22 soccer fields (totaling approximately 43 acres, not including parking and additional infrastructure) would be even more difficult to address.

Offering A Solution

Adams remembered an idea that he had had after a weekend of shuttling his daughter across town from game to game, longing for the tournament play in the “Lower 48,” where fields are generally located in a single complex. Instead of claiming undeveloped parkland for soccer fields, what if an existing multiuse park was developed to include additional recreational opportunities, including soccer fields?

Kincaid Park, approximately 1,500 acres and used predominately for cross-country skiing in the winter and cross-country running in the summer, was owned by the U.S. Army during the Cold War, and was used as a Nike-Hercules missile site. In 1980, it was transferred to the municipality by the Federal Land Surplus Act.

Existing bunkers have since been repurposed for ski waxing, circuit training, equipment storage, or simply left vacant.

Adams’ idea added eight new soccer fields, almost entirely within the footprint of the missile site, which had already been cleared and was mostly level. After sketching out his concept, he threw the papers in the trunk of his car to show his co-workers, but forgot about it until the evening of the assembly meeting.

Cue Kismet

Also attending the meeting was Boyd Morgenthaler, president of the Anchorage District Soccer Federation. After the meeting, Adams showed him his drawing, and asked if Morgenthaler thought it had legs.

Morgenthaler thought, “Terrific idea. Absolutely fantastic. I just about did cartwheels when he showed it to me.”

He immediately encouraged Adams to pursue it. Adams knew that in order to make the project happen, he needed the support of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA). When he presented the idea to NSAA, Dick Mize, a 1964 Olympic biathlete, and Jim Burkholder, a local competitive skier and strong ski-trail advocate, both of whom had been building trails at Kincaid since the 1970s, saw an opportunity.

The proposed development of new fields was in accordance with the 1983 Kincaid Park Master Plan, but would need irrigation to maintain a quality playing surface. However, the outdoor soccer season in Anchorage is short-lived due to long, snowy winters, meaning the fields would only need water during the summer.

The rest of the year, water could be used for snowmaking for some of the trails, a longtime goal of the organization. The partnership between soccer and skiing was ideal, says Mize, because “it enabled us to have a dual use of purpose for drilling wells.”

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