Earlier this month, the Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. board of directors heard a proposal from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for expanded parking in Downtown Talkeetna. Under the proposal, the borough would receive land from the Alaska Railroad to build the lot. The parcel also contains land along the Talkeetna riverfront. The expanded parking would begin where the current Chase lot sits, and would extend north along the railroad tracks. The plan would provide for more than thirty parking spaces for Downtown employees and a new lot for Chase residents capable of handling trucks with trailers.
The Talkeetna Community Council chose to create a committee to consider the plan and take input from the community. The committee met on Wednesday evening, and over twenty people from the Chase and Talkeetna communities attended. At its last meeting, the Chase Community Council voted to write a letter in opposition to the current plan.
Most of those who spoke acknowledge the strained nature of parking downtown during the busy summer season. Despite that, a significant majority present had reservations about going forward with the proposal.
Some of the concerns shared at Wednesday’s meeting have to do with the amount of tree clearing that would be required under the current version of the plan. A significant portion of the trail leading from the current Chase parking lot toward the railroad bridge would be cleared. Some expressed concern that this would diminish the rural feel of Talkeetna that helps draw visitors.
Objections also came up as a result of the perceived short time window in which the proposal could be accepted. Robert Sheldon, who has been in contact with both state and borough officials regarding the plan, says that the Alaska Railroad is currently under pressure from the State of Alaska, and is making efforts to cooperate with communities. He believes there is a limited amount of time the railroad is willing to wait for an answer, and says that they are not likely to go forward with the transfer of property to the Mat-Su Borough without a plan in place.
The current plan, while it borrows from previous planning documents created by the Talkeetna community, does not follow those original ideas exactly. While discussion was occasionally heated at the Wednesday meeting, those who wished to speak were able to, and potential compromises were discussed. It’s unclear what the ultimate fate of the proposal will be, but there is a good chance it will be on the Talkeetna Community Council’s agenda for March 6th.