“A place where our neighbors, the moose, may drop in on you unannounced”
Contributed by McKenna Gallagher
Now, at long last, a brand new neighborhood perched above the wildlife refuge will be open for new homeowners to make their dreams come true. The new Trunk Road South extension officially opened to the public on August 11th. It creates a safer direct access for many residents living south of the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center.
The new neighborhood of Bluffs at the Ranch boasts modern city amenities that can be hard to find in rural Alaska. The City of Wasilla ownes and operates the water system, including all fire hydrants at the Ranch. Privately-funded street lights, natural gas, as well as park-side living and exceptional views can all be found in this master-planned community.
Trunk Road South, a voter-approved capital improvement project which includes a bike path, is expected to be paved in its entirety by late fall. The bike path may end at Chuqilintnu Wasilla Creek trailhead parking lot which is part of the wildlife refuge or it may end just east of Wasilla Creek bridge.
“Benefits of this private/public endeavor is to create a new and safer transportation corridor including jobs, jobs and more jobs,” Inge Turner, wife of Rex Turner and vice president of Arctic Devco Inc., explained. These new improvements provide faster and safer commuting to JBER, Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla, the UAA-affiliated Mat-Su Campus, as well as the newly-built Central Mat-Su Fire Station 51 and the expanding Regional Medical compound.
In addition to these modern conveniences, almost a decade ago a 15-acre tract of land in the middle of the Ranch, donated by the Turners, had made it possible to support the Mat-Su School District’s desire to build the new South Palmer Elementary School near the bluffs. This award winning LEED certified school was named after the famous local artists, Fred and Sara Machetanz. The school overlooks Cook Inlet and the wildlife refuge, and is now served by an improved school bus route.
For the improved school bus route to be linked to the Parks Highway, the Turners graciously donated engineering, construction materials and nearly the entire length of the road right-of-way from the round-about at the Parks Highway/Trunk Road overpass to the west end of the Ranch neighborhood where E Nelson Road currently ends. It is noteworthy to mention that this cooperation between the private and public entities who came together to deliver the improved road system evolved over a period of many years with voter approval.
The original masterplan design of the Ranch subdivision included a float plane base below the bluffs. This concept was altered as the Turners agreed to support and co-operate with the Great Land Trust and the State of Alaska to convert these proposed float plane development properties into a pristine wildlife preserve. In order to add 900 acres to the Palmer Hayflats Wildlife Refuge, the Turners relinquished some of their development rights on uplands as well as most of the wetlands. Turners contend that if economic conditions remain stable and development can flourish, an additional public wetland park access leading to the already existing boardwalk trails at Swan Lake is foreseeable in the near future. ”
“Choose your home, create your dream,” Inge Turner said with excitement, when she began to explain the possibilities of Bluffs at the Ranch’s new neighborhood addition. “Rex’s dream was to create this neighborhood. Now you can live your dream and pick your house, pick your builder and design your new home overlooking the wildlife refuge. Our neighbors, the moose, may drop in on you quite unannounced if you choose to live here.”
To explore this new evolving epicenter at the gateway to the Valley for yourself when coming from Anchorage, take Parks Highway toward Wasilla. Take the first exit which is Trunk Road. Head south over the Parks Highway toward Machetanz School. Just before the school, turn left on S Barn Gable Loop. You have arrived.
For the Turner family who have been the stewards of this property for more than three decades, the grand opening of the bluff region is another milestone in an ongoing land development endeavor. Rex Turner, now entering his 80s, still enjoys his time sculpturing the landscape with the dozer blade. When he was recently asked when he thinks he would retire, he remarked, “Never. Retirement is for old people.” He is already planning what he may be developing next year.
The grand opening of Bluffs at the Ranch represents an opportunity for growth for many families and companies in this gateway community. Now the public is invited to see this one-of-a-kind setting for themselves, so they can create their own dreams. From the Turner family to yours, we hope to see you there!