I made up this narrative about this place before I arrived. I thought a man named Chester had come into Anchorage by following a pathway along a creek. I thought that this foundational expedition was part of the celebration of 100 years of Anchorage. I decided not to verify this bullshit before hitting the ground here as a way to reinforce the idea of us being explorers, like Chester. In truth, Chanshtnu – meaning ‘grass creek’- is the name the Dena’ina people gave to the creek that flowed between their ancestral fishing camps. When English began to write a history of this area the word was translated to Chester, and thus there was no Mr. Chester, no inaugural expedition, no corollary to the centennial celebration. I was wrong in the beginning – out of focus as it were – so I made the decision to just listen.
So when my earlier, naive ideas were disproven, I let everything else go. I had no plan, but I would have a lot of sources. I had residents of all kinds; recreationalists, planners, employees, and the like to ask questions, listen to stories, and ultimately learn from. These people helped me to understand their place; as a park, as a bike path, as a place of residence. Each of these elements helped me to understand more directly the impact we could have on this trail. For all that it affects, the Chester Creek Trail has the potential of stoking quite a few different kinds of conversations. The trail can become a place for pointed conversations on the environment at large, development in Anchorage specifically, and the manner of individual use that seems to direct the conversation.
As we wrap up our research I want to name my sources. There are certainly more, but these folks helped me understand how the trail engages with, infuriates, excites, and exercises this city.