Kirsten Swann

As the demolition of an abandoned Eklutna River dam moves forward, local utilities, lawmakers and business leaders are talking about the next step in the process – potentially restoring water and salmon to the 22-mile channel.

“This is a long-term project,” said Curtis McQueen, CEO of Eklutna, Inc., one of the many stakeholders in the river’s future. “We believe in balance.”

Eagle River is more than 2,000 miles away from Hollywood, but for a week or so this summer, the two places felt much closer.

In the middle of August, the movies came to town. Led by Alaskan writer and director Charles Baird, a small crew of actors and filmmakers recently shot two feature films in Eagle River, recording scenes in the parking lot of the Eagle River Shopping Center, a private home on a lake and other places throughout the community.

Following months of construction closures, inspection issues and cancelled events, the Mirror Lake Park pavilions reopened to the public on the last day of July.

“I’m so excited to let everyone in,” said Karen Richards, Eagle River Parks and Recreation manager.

The opening is months overdue. Closed for improvements in August of 2016, the pavilions were originally scheduled to be completed and reopened by November, but there were “deficiencies” with a newly poured concrete slab, the park manager said.

“Within 30 days it was heaving,” Richards said.

While summer rainclouds and Bear Paw Festival crowds converged outside the Eagle River Town Center Thursday night, a half-dozen locals gathered inside for a drier purpose – the monthly meeting of the Eagle River Community Council.

The ERCC, one of six area community councils, is the only council to hold regular meetings throughout the summer months. Its July 13 meeting covered community issues ranging from public safety to parks.

The president of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want to be pessimistic — but thing’s aren’t looking good.

“I’m saying right now, our future is not that bright,” Curtis Thayer said at an August 2 meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce at the Eagle River Ale House. “We have high unemployment, we have negative growth in the state of Alaska, we have people leaving Alaska, we have an industry in decline.”

A former Eagle River soldier charged with the 2013 death of her infant daughter has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

Ashley Ard, 28, accepted the plea deal during a brief afternoon hearing in a nearly empty Anchorage courtroom July 31. Anchorage District Court Judge Kevin Saxby scheduled a sentencing hearing for Dec. 5. Afterwards, still in handcuffs, Ard was ushered out a side door by uniformed Alaska State Trooper, and a small group of family members sitting quietly near the back of the courtroom filed out into the lobby.

The Municipality of Anchorage is hoping to develop a chunk of Chugiak hillside, seeking to sell a 19.4-acre parcel near Loretta French Park.

The land – wooded property located off Jasmine Road – is owned by the Heritage Land Bank, a municipal agency tasked with managing public lands around Anchorage. The land bank plans to offer the parcel for competitive bid sale, paving the way for residential development, according to HLB land managers; the sale is contingent upon approval by the Anchorage Assembly.

Young Eagle River actors and actresses are learning to do more with less: The Alaska Fine Art Academy’s upcoming production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” assembled over the course of five short weeks, features six cast members performing 20 separate characters, with dialogue delivered in four separate dialects.

“It’s a lot of practicing on one thing at a time – one day is one thing, the next day is another,” said 12-year-old Haylee Nunez. “I just hope everyone enjoys the show.”

Construction at Birchwood’s newest shooting range is progressing ahead of schedule, and the Southcentral Law Enforcement Tactical Training Center is scheduled to open for business this fall, according to project managers.

“Everything’s tracking well,” said Alan Czajkowski, director of maintenance and operations for the Anchorage Public Works Department.

Financial problems persist at the Harry J. McDonald Center, which will need a municipal loan to continue summer operations.

Without a cash infusion, facility manager Reid McDonald said the center might not be able to pay its employees.

“I’m not sure if we’ll make our next payroll,” McDonald told the Chugiak-Eagle River Parks Board of Supervisors at its July 10 meeting.

McDonald said municipal funding seemed to be the only short-term option for shoring up the center’s finances.

“We are scrambling at this point – there’s not much more I can do.”