How the Anchorage, Alaska Parks Department Used Data to Enhance Community Development

The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department keeps busy year round: with 223 parks, 82 playgrounds, 135 miles of paved trails, 110 athletic fields, 5 pools, and 11 recreation facilities, the Parks Department staff are never short on projects. Maeve Nevins, senior park planner, and Taylor Keegan, park planner, are implementing improvement plans for Anchorage parks. For two parks projects in particular, Maeve and Taylor used data and community feedback to inform their improvement plans, garnering positive community responses for both projects as a result.

Folker Park

On the docket for renovation was Folker Park. Maeve wanted to get community input before implementing a formal improvement plan. While the public meetings were well attended, what Maeve found is that the vast majority of the attendees were Caucasian senior citizens. Many of these attendees argued that since there were not many children in the community, it would be best to implement outdoor exercise equipment for the many senior citizens in the area. Through studying community data, Maeve knew that though there was indeed a large aging population, there were also many children in the community. When she brought this to the attention of the people in attendance at the meeting, attendees were doubtful.

Maeve and Taylor used mySidewalk to create a map of the area showing the specific demographics of the population. Sure enough, the map revealed a large population of children in the community. Not only this, but it turned out that the community also contained a large population of individuals with disabilities.

By showing the community members a demographic map of the area, Maeve was not only able to prove that Folker Park needed to have amenities for children, but also that it needed to have more accessible equipment and trails for all residents living with disabilities. The equipment that the community members wanted to serve the elderly population could also serve those with disabilities, so this data actually supported what the senior citizen population wanted. Due to this data, it was decided that both outdoor exercise equipment and facilities for children should be written into the park site plan.

We were also able to say ‘Yes! This is in line with the people that live here.’ mySidewalk is a quick, easy resource, and in the end we were able to use data to make everybody happy.
— Maeve Nevins, Anchorage Senior Park Planner

Duldida Park

Another noteworthy project of the Parks Department was the neighborhood playground renovation project of Duldida Park. This particular park is located in the most diverse census tract in the nation, with 101 different languages spoken. This project had a small budget, consequently Taylor needed to be selective about which elements of the park got a facelift. To get feedback on what was most important to this unique community, Taylor conducted a survey so residents could voice their opinions and wishes.

What she found was that most people in the area wanted to honor the heritage of the community by including elements of diversity and literacy to the park redesign. To satisfy this request, Taylor had the word “play” etched in 101 different languages throughout the park. She also had the word written in the top 30 languages on the park’s sidewalk. Residents loved that the outcome honored the community’s diverse heritage and unique population.

The Power of Data

Through harnessing the power of both quantitative and qualitative data, Taylor was able to understand the community’s needs and desires while also making the most of Duldida Park’s modest budget. As Maeve and Taylor continue to work on projects in Anchorage, they plan to utilize mySidewalk to better understand the diverse demographics and culture of the unique communities in the area.

The finished product: Duldida Park in Anchorage, Alaska

The finished product: Duldida Park in Anchorage, Alaska

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About the Author

Lauren French has worked in the tech world as a marketing and content professional for the past two years. She earned a master’s degree in public relations from Michigan State University and holds an English degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not thinking about marketing and content creation, Lauren enjoys binge-watching Netflix shows and drinking as much coffee as possible. She is also over-the-top obsessed with her two dogs, Hutch and Marty.