Increased number of people camping near Cuddy Park concerns some residents

Cuddy Park in Anchorage is experiencing more homeless campers
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 5:34 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 12, 2023 at 6:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The number of tents at a city-owned lot next to Cuddy Park is growing, and neighbors want to know what to do.

The Midtown campsite is one of the places where people have camped after the Sullivan Arena closed as a homeless shelter in early May.

Anchorage Parks and Recreation Director Mike Braniff said he’s heard from concerned citizens who don’t appreciate the campers so close to a city park — but without shelter space available, there isn’t much the city can do.

“We are in a position right now where we don’t have the ability to abate camps — which would be compelling people to move, to leave the site and to clean the area thoroughly when they do,” Braniff said. “So right now we are in a period that we accept that they’re here, and we try and meet community needs and keep the area as clean as we can, given that.”

Braniff said city cleanup crews visit the site three times a week. On Friday, a city dumpster arrived and portable toilets were on the way.

Some people who use the park regularly said they don’t feel comfortable with what is happening. Rebecca Jeter, who frequently walks around Cuddy Pond says she’s more cautious there now.

“It’s hard to see, and you do wonder about your safety,” Jeter said. “But they also need a place, so it’s a hard situation.”

But some wonder if that place should be so close to a playground. While most of the campers are on a city-owned lot next to the park, several tents have sprung up close to the playground. On Friday afternoon, Freya Janssen was there with her two children, and she called the situation concerning.

“This is a place where it should be open for families and the community, but not a place for people to reside permanently,” Janssen said.

Braniff said city code prohibits campers from being within 100 feet of a playground but the tents currently meet that criteria. He said if they were closer the city would ask the occupants to move further back and work cooperatively with them.

Braniff said discussions are underway about the possibility of having a sanctioned campground that is not in a city park but that no decisions have been made.