When Colleen Carlson gave birth to her son, James, she knew she wanted to spend as much time as possible exploring Alaska’s outdoor spaces with her little one. This former environmental educator, naturalist, and advocate for play was born and raised in Soldotna, and was familiar with the forests, lakes, rivers, and bays of Southcentral Alaska. But Anchorage city parks? Not so much. Playgrounds? Even less.
Carlson was on staff at Campbell Creek Science Center in Anchorage when I first met her, and when she left to raise little James, now four, I missed her calm and positive presence. But I see now what she’s been up to.
133 Anchorage Playgrounds is the product of Carlson’s effort to encourage families, be they from Anchorage or not, to play outside with their children. Carlson and her young team of helpers (son James and his friends) visited every single Anchorage playground in the city limits over the course of a few years, with Carlson writing down key points for parents.
Included in the book (which costs $16.95 and is available on Carlson’s website or in person) are the following:
- A regional directory of Anchorage playgrounds, color-coded for easy reference (Midtown is yellow, east Anchorage is orange, and so on), with helpful neighborhood names to make finding parks even simpler.
- Nicknames of parks are also listed, like “Polar Bear Park” and “Mammoth Park,” because, really, that’s how we remember these things.
- Photos of each park’s features, like slides, swings, and interesting things to climb, not to mention the amazing scenery.
- A helpful rating system from one to three stars that should help your decision making.
- Other notes, like bathrooms, water, sledding hills, and surfacing (Carlson does not have a specific notation for accessibility as noted by ADA; she told me that despite her years of ADA experience, she felt noting the surface as “wheel-friendly” would be adequate for the purposes of this book. She does, however, provide links to the Anchorage Park Foundation, where accessibility is addressed fully.)
Living in Anchorage, or planning on moving here soon? Buy the book. The four-season value cannot be overstated.
Visiting Anchorage for a week or more? The book is worth the investment due to the opportunities to explore Anchorage, meet Alaska families, and contribute to the great work of an amazing mom. Plus, if you don’t want to take the book home with you, it would be wonderful to see it appear on a Read On the Fly shelf at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Know a friend expecting a little one? This makes the perfect baby shower gift to tuck in a stroller, carrier, or on a bike.
Note: Colleen Carlson will be at the Spenard Farmers Market on July 30 and 31; August 6 and 20; and September 10 and 24. Stop by, meet the family, and ask her to sign your copy of 133 Anchorage Playgrounds. Tell her AKontheGO sent you.