Campers disappointed by abatement of Cuddy Park

On Wednesday, abatement notices were passed out to campers.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 7:36 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 9:13 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For one camper at Cuddy Park, the people living in tents scattered across the Midtown park are just like any other Anchorage neighborhood.

“They look out for each other here. It’s very (much a) community,” camper Jessica Smalls said.

Smalls arrived just days ago with her son after her car was impounded. She said the community at the park took her in.

But this residence is short-lived for Smalls, and her new community. On Wednesday, abatement notices were served to campers, giving them two weeks to pack and leave.

“It’s disappointing. You’d think that they’d be more supportive of helping or giving some sort of resource to help. You kind of feel abandoned I guess,” Smalls said.

On March 2, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Braniff told reporters that “Folks won’t be asked to leave because there’s not shelter space, which is one of the abatement requirements.”

On Thursday, Alaska’s News Source followed up with Braniff about why abatement notices were served this week.

“That’s maybe more than I can answer myself,” Braniff said. “It’s multiple departments that weigh in on the decision. And ultimately, it’s down to the Department of Law to tell us whether we can legally abate or not, in their opinion. And they told us we can in this case, and that’s what we went forward on.”

A three-day music festival is set to take place at Cuddy Park from June 16-18. Braniff said hosting the concert at the park while there are campers nearby poses safety risks.

“When you have any alcohol involved — the event is permitted alcohol — and just really a large number of people ... the concert organizer anticipates up to 7,000 people per day at the concert, I think we just identify that there’s the potential for problems that we’d like to get in front of,” Braniff said.

For those calling Cuddy Park home, it’s a disappointment.

“It puts the lower-class like at a second rate,” Smalls said. “Like, it was unfair. Like how can they do that?”

With no city-run shelter available, campers are unsure where they’ll end up. They will have until June 6 to find somewhere else to go.

“We don’t have a sanctioned camp that we’re directing people to. We’re not transporting people. And so, we’re not telling them where to go,” Braniff said.