Tuesday June 28, 2022 was a good day and early evening until Cindy looked at her email and exclaimed, “No! That can’t be! NO!”
I looked up at her from my e-reader and she cried, “Anchorage is canceling our reservation that starts THIS Friday!”
When we were planning our trip to Alaska I had wanted to stay at some of the major cities on our route. We weren’t going near the capitol of Juneau, but we were going to be in or near Fairbanks and Anchorage, as well as smaller towns like Seward and Valdez.
We had booked all of our Alaska stays last December to be sure we had spots to camp when we needed full hook-ups (FHUs) of electricity, water and sewer connections to replenish our batteries, refill our fresh water tank and dump our black and grey tanks. They’re not absolutely necessary as we do charge our batteries off of solar on the roof and we have a generator, plus we can get water at various locations and we can usually find dump stations (for a fee) to empty our tanks. But having all in one location is convenient, especially if we’re going to be in an area for a few days.
We had 5 nights booked and paid for at the Centennial RV Park in Anchorage so we could rest after Denali National Park and visit a couple of things in Anchorage. Nothing big like the visit to Denali or the upcoming whale cruise out of Valdez, but we thought it would be a good place to visit. The City of Anchorage owns and operates Centennial RV Park and on this Tuesday night, June 28, 2022, they had decided to let us know they were cancelling our reservation that would begin in 3 days due to “health and safety issues” which wasn’t very detailed as far as explanations go. In addition to cancelling us with 3 days notice (on a holiday weekend, no less, when everyone they cancelled would be scrambling to get a replacement spot in whatever locations they could find), the city was also NOT automatically refunding our fees to our credit card but rather were forcing us to fill out a form and they would mail our refund by check to us. That is not normal at all and we’ve never run into that for the couple of cancellations we’ve had over the past year of RVing. Plus, we’re not at home to receive that refund check.
So, Cindy immediately began trying to find someplace in the area that could accept a 5-night reservation for us on a holiday weekend. Of course, it was after 6 pm when we got the cancellation notice, so no one (including Centennial or the City of Anchorage, so we could find out what was going on) was open for accepting phone calls, which was yet another strike against the city for the timing of the notice. Meanwhile, I was curious what the “health and safety issues” might be. My first thought was that it had to do with the wildfires that were affecting much of Alaska, but I couldn’t imagine that they would shut down the RV park due to that, since they obviously weren’t shutting down other city services (and the fires were not physically close to the city) due to the wildfires.
Then I came across a news article from the previous week(!) stating that the good mayor of Anchorage had ordered Centennial RV Park closed, everyone already there removed, and future reservations cancelled on the previous Wednesday (almost a week before we got our cancellation notice) , all without consulting his City Council/Community Leaders or, apparently, thinking about the impact such cancellations would have over the Fourth of July weekend. One woman in a Facebook group we are in related how on the previous Wednesday night at 6pm she answered a knock on her RV door telling her she had to be out by 11 the next morning. I’m reasonably sure all the other current occupants received similar knocks on their doors that evening.
So surely, there must have been dire circumstances to cause the mayor to suddenly (and with less than 24 hours notice to those already in the park) close down the park. What could they be? And why, if they knew the previous Wednesday that they would be canceling upcoming reservations, did they wait until almost a week later to give us (and who knows how many others who had reservations that weekend) a 3-day notice when they could have let us know more than a week in advance, had they chosen to do things in a sensible manner?
Anchorage, like most major cities, has a homeless population. No matter what your feelings about homeless folks might be (mine are always in sympathy for those who have no place to live) it is a fact of life in most major population centers. Cities need to do more to assist folks who need it in getting back into reliable housing. Religious organizations need to put their money where their mouth is and offer assistance to those they say are children of their god. Charitable organizations need to step up and infuse the cities they inhabit with housing and grants and job assistance for those who need them in order to return to being a part of their local community. In short, I believe all of the above should be doing everything in their power to assist homeless people and families with housing, jobs, mental health assistance, substance abuse counseling and whatever else it might take to get folks the help they need.
What the Mayor of Anchorage decided was that he would use the Centennial RV Park as a place for the city’s homeless population to bring their tents and set up residence. According to news articles and local commenters, there was a large homeless population living in woods near the city and a fire had started. For their safety, the mayor felt they would be better off in the RV park and ordered them all moved from the woods to the RV park.
So, as it turns out, I am in sympathy with what the mayor was trying to do. But I am definitely not in sympathy with the way it was done. These declarations and orders made without consulting with his city council or community leaders led to bad implementations. This decision was obviously not well thought out in regards to the impacts it would have, both on the community and those visiting the not-so-fair city of Anchorage (like us, and many, many others) during a busy holiday weekend. Police were ordered to remove people from the woods, so the homeless population they were supposedly trying to assist had no input on the matter either.
Oh, and according to an article today in the Anchorage Daily News, State Wildlife Officers have had to kill 4 bears in the park since it was turned into a homeless camp. That’s because homeless people and families have no way to secure their meager food supplies from bears like campers with vehicles, travel trailers or motor coaches are able to do. As you’ve seen in some of my past posts, any campground we are in that is in a bear habitat is loaded with warning signs to keep food and waste materials secured to keep them from attracting bears in search of food. I’m sure those warnings have also been posted at Centennial as well but these folks, in most cases, have no way to do so. It probably won’t be long before a bear kills someone because of this rash decision.
The whole process was out of order and if I were a citizen of Anchorage I would be seriously questioning the decision-making ability and thought processes of my mayor. Thankfully, I am not.
After a lot of crying, emails and phone calls that night and the next morning, Cindy was extremely stressed but finally found a place for us to stay for those 5 nights. However, it was about 40 miles from Anchorage and at a cost of $50 more than we had already paid. We will not be making our planned visit to Anchorage because the whole sorry episode with the city left such a bad taste in our mouths that we have no desire to do so. Cindy returned the city’s silly refund form and asked them to simply refund the amount to our credit card, but we’ve heard nothing back and (10 days later) to date have not received said refund.
To reiterate; I believe in and support whatever assistance can and should be given to homeless people and families, but this mayor’s implementation of what could have been a good idea was flawed, impractical and most likely caused more harm than good for the city and their homeless population.
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