Age-Friendly Anchorage: One small park
June 1, 2023 | View PDF
What does it mean to be a Livable Community? As defined by the AARP Livable Communities project, a Livable Community supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and rural areas to be great places for people of all ages. Communities should supply safe, walkable streets, affordable housing, safe transportation options, access to needed services and opportunities for residents of all ages to take part in community life. How does that translate to life in Anchorage?
This is the first in a series of articles that will highlight examples of what has been done, is currently in progress and will be done soon to make Anchorage a more Age-Friendly and livable community for all residents.
Tucked away in the U-Med district of Anchorage you can find Folker Park. Land acquisition for the park began in 1983 with the purchase completed in 1984. In 1990, a log cabin was removed from the property by the city. In 1996, the University Area Community Council worked with the Parks and Recreation Dept. to develop a concept site plan and priorities list. Unfortunately, the park suffered through many years of neglect and negative use behind the increasing dense undergrowth until 2015 when the neighborhood worked with the city to clear the undergrowth and improve visibility into the park.
In 2016 a 10-year vision for the park management, maintenance and development began; this plan is known as the "Folker Site Plan Update." The city conducted extensive public outreach, including many people and organizations in creating the plan for improvements in Folker Park.
Today Folker Park has many carefully designed features to enhance the lives for people of all ages and abilities. The manual work to implement the vision for the park got off the ground in 2017 with the award of an Anchorage Park Foundation Challenge Grant for fitness equipment that seniors, adults, and youth of all ages can use together. Construction began in the summer of 2018 for an ADA-accessible pathway in the shape of a Celtic Healing Knot, the all-ages fitness area that includes a Tai Chi wheel for improving mobility and balance and a meditative labyrinth. In June 2022, following another set of enhancements to Folker Park, the community was invited to celebrate at a grand re-opening to honor the park's transformation into Anchorage's first-ever intergenerational health park.
These enhancements were funded by members and friends of the Alaska Reflexology Association (AKRA), the Anchorage Park Foundation, and AARP Alaska. The newest features in the park included a new walking path, referred to as the Community Reflexology Footpath, and six new pieces of outdoor music equipment from Freenotes Harmony Park, a company known for its inclusive design and ability to appeal to users of all ages and abilities.
The location of the park and the continued involvement of the community is part of what makes the park and the features so exciting. Folker Park is located close to many medical providers and to the assisted living facility, Providence Horizon House. Some medical providers use the park for outdoor therapy. Horizon House has a four-wheeled pedal bike with seats, so residents can go for a 'bike ride' in the park. Since the park is accessible, the residents and their visiting family and friends can go to enjoy the healing powers of being out in nature.
Additionally, the entire mixed residential neighborhood benefits from the possibility Folker Park brings as an oasis for fitness, healing, togetherness and even music in between several extremely busy roadways that traverse the city. That possibility is a true win for making Anchorage a more livable and Age-Friendly community.