A Lesson Worth Learning

It was at this point that the water quality and flooding concerns for Fish Creek became a key to success. Engineers sought a site in Midtown to provide 11 acre-feet of flood storage. One potential site was an existing 2.2-acre snow-storage area adjacent to the park, but the parcel was too small to accommodate the snow- and floodwater-storage requirements. The engineers requested use of a portion of the park to address the capacity issue. The park design team recognized this as an opportunity and focused on a water feature as a key element, adding additional public use as well as a wildlife habitat. With the addition of the 2.2 acres of snow-storage area, the design team was able to create a 19-acre park that would produce the community park the public, the Gang of Four, and the park founders had long envisioned.

Still, the design program seriously challenged available funding. Working closely with a design-review committee, the design team configured key elements to reduce material needs without compromising the work program. A major cost savings included use of excavation material from the pond to create landforms and raise elevations within the park, enhancing views of the nearby Chugach Mountains and screening adjacent big-box stores from key locations. This approach also created a “Great Lawn,” which serves as an informal play area that can accommodate large outdoor concerts.

Beyond the costs, the design and technical aspects of the work were daunting. Snow- and floodwater storage required 3.5 acres of the 19-acre park, which could compromise park use. This issue was addressed by providing a reasonable “main pond” of approximately 2.3 acres, creating floodwater-storage areas at the periphery of the park. This also accommodated snow storage and provided treatment of runoff via biofiltration and detention at a “forebay” before introduction to the main pond. Also, the peripheral areas accommodated flooding at high volumes while remaining as wetland areas at other times, creating additional habitat for wildlife.

The main pond design addressed a number of challenges. Of particular concern was how to make the pond work well for public use and wildlife habitat, yet still handle capacity requirements for floods. Careful grading solved this challenge, allowing public contact and wading, including disabled access, while not endangering users. Through careful engineering, critical elevations were set for all

To discourage large congregations of Canada geese near people, a length of the pond was planted with coarse species of vegetation.

To discourage large congregations of Canada geese near people, a length of the pond was planted with coarse species of vegetation.

public-contact areas (steps and ramps) and a weir and bypass to deliver flood waters to peripheral park areas, addressing flood-capacity needs. Public access to the pond was concentrated and limited to avoid impacts to vegetation and wildlife, and pond edges were stabilized with emergent grass seed as an interim measure until native vegetation could be reestablished. There was a concern that Canada geese would habituate in large numbers in the primary public-use area, causing public-health concerns–an issue in other parks. To address this, a length of the pond edge was planted with coarse species of vegetation (Cinquefoil and Rose) to discourage the aggregation of geese near people.

Conceived simply as a remnant green space in Midtown Anchorage, the CuddyFamilyMidtownPark has evolved to serve active recreation interests, restore a forgotten creek, improve habitat for fish and other wildlife, and accommodate flood waters that threaten public and private properties downstream of the park.

Getting It Right

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