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Nan Elaine (Lanie) Fleischer

Photo of Nan Elaine (Lanie) Fleischer

Lanie moved to Anchorage in 1971 from Washington, D.C., where she had enjoyed exploring the area by bicycle. She was astonished to find that Anchorage had no trail system that would allow residents to connect with the outdoors, explore the greenbelts or view the mountains. Her vision was a trail system that would connect children to schools, parks and libraries without having to be driven. When three hundred enthusiastic people turned out for the “bike in” event she organized, Lanie and the Bike Committee went to work. In 1973, the group succeeded in getting a bond issue passed to finance construction of Anchorage’s first paved trail, the four-mile Chester Creek Trail.

Lanie has been an activist in a myriad of local and statewide issues. She considers her work on the Anchorage Citizens Committee for Goals and Objectives for the Comprehensive Plan in 1973 to be some of the most important work she has undertaken. She was one of the original volunteer staff, and, later, board member of the Alaska Center for the Environment; president, Parks and Recreation Council of Anchorage, 1972-78; Parks and Recreation Commission, 1981-85; on the original KSKA Board, 1978-81; organized the original eight community councils and created the Federation of Community Councils; member of the Town Square Advisory Committee (after successfully fighting to save Town Square Park); founder of the downtown Anchorage Saturday Market and Market Master for three years; helped start the optional school choice program and served on the parents’ committee for Chugach Optional School. Lainie also served on the Performing Arts Center Board of Directors; South Addition Community Council member and president; ACLU Board of Directors; and on the citizens committee to develop the master plan for the Park Strip. Gov. Hammond appointed her to the State Growth Policy Council and the State Investment Advisory Board (which drew up the legislation creating the Permanent Fund). Gov. Knowles appointed her to the TRAAK (Trails and Recreational Access for Alaska) Board and, in 1995, appointed her to be chair. She was also appointed to the Statewide Charitable Gaming Task Force to advise on regulations for this industry. Lanie currently serves on the Task Force, Anchorage Veteran’s Memorial Committee and continues to be active in the South Addition Community Council.

Lanie raised three children in Anchorage. Over the years, she has used the trail system as a skier, runner, biker, hiker and even as a roller blader. In her professional life, she was the executive director, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Anchorage, 1990-2005.

Lanie, considered to be the “Mother of the Trail System,” was recognized and honored by the mayor and assembly in 1994 when it named that initial trail the “Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail”. For her civic work, she has received a number of awards, including the Woman of Achievement, Anchorage YWCA; Ethics Award, East Anchorage Rotary; Woman of Distinction, Soroptimists International of Anchorage; State Senate citation for initiating a world-class trail system; and Jay Rabinowitz Public Service Award, Alaska Bar Association.

Lanie’s sense of civic responsibility and involvement sets a standard for activists throughout Alaska. Reflecting on her experience, she advises that if you speak up with a good idea, others will join in; you need not be an expert to make a meaningful contribution; to be a leader means that you must have followers. Lanie knew her vision had been realized when she heard two young boys playing in Goose Lake say “we just saw this trail and followed it; we never knew there was a lake here.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Incredulous that Anchorage had no system of trails in 1971, much less sidewalks or shoulders to walk on, Lanie persuaded her friends to form the Bike Day Committee to advocate for a trail system. Her vision was to have a system that would connect schools with libraries and parks so that children could travel the city without having to be driven. She organized a “bike in” and 300 people participated. Amazed and inspired by that turnout, Lanie and committee members started organizing efforts that culminated in the passage of a bond issue in 1973 to finance the first trail along Chester Creek. Lanie, considered the “Mother of the Trail System,” was recognized and honored by the mayor and assembly in 1994 when it named that trail the “Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail”.  Her vision, determination and leadership has led to what many now consider to be a world-class trail system.

Lanie has helped to build Anchorage in other ways as well. She organized the original eight community councils and created the Federation of Community Councils; founded and fostered the downtown Saturday Market; worked to create an optional school choice; helped develop the park system; and served on the Town Square Advisory Committee. She worked for 15-years for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Anchorage. Governors Hammond and Knowles appointed her to various state boards and commissions.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech