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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Alaska

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Urban Trail Offers a Whale of a View
Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart
One Sprawling Site Paves the Way for Others

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Urban Trail Offers a Whale of a View

Many cities in the United States are cut off from their natural surroundings by urban highways. But the success of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage shows that there is another option: build walking and biking trails to link natural areas with the urban core.

Beginning in downtown Anchorage, the Knowles trail follows the coastline for several miles while offering spectacular views of the Cook Inlet set against distant, snow-capped peaks. During certain times of year, beluga whales can be spotted. This surely is one of the most beautiful urban trails in America, and it is very popular with local residents and out-of-town visitors. Though the setting is hard to copy, the concept of using walking and bicycling paths to link cities with their natural surroundings could be applied almost anywhere.

The coastal trail is just one of several urban paths in Anchorage -- another scenic trail branches off the coastal trail and follows a creek and urban greenbelt for almost five miles. An example of foresight and sound planning, the popularity of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail has ruled out an ill-conceived coastal freeway that was once under serious consideration by local officials and state highway engineers.

Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart
Bear and Moose Can't Compete with Stores

Sprawl in Alaska? Unfortunately, yes. With precious few ground rules or planning, it's spreading across the countryside in that all-too-familiar pattern.

Wasilla, a fast-growing town outside of Anchorage, demonstrates what happens when communities are unprepared for rapid growth.

Retailer Fred Meyer opened a huge 172,000 square-foot store in Wasilla in 1999. Following close on Meyer's heels was Wal-Mart, which increased the amount of retail space in town by another 156,000 square feet. Traffic congestion and four stoplights are brand new realities with which the citizens of Wasilla must cope.

There is a growth plan for the town, but it was written 30 years ago. Back then, Wasilla held a mere 7,000 people; now it holds almost 10 times that many.

Poorly planned development has had a huge impact on people and wildlife. Sprawl is increasingly encroaching on black bear, brown bear and moose habitat. In Anchorage, calls regarding bear problems have increased fivefold over the past decade. And along the main highway leading through Wasilla, about 300 moose are annually struck and killed by automobiles.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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