Palmer Buzz

A geographic definition of the greater Palmer area is personal; my definition is probably not the same as yours. It is a curiosity how we define our place of Greater Palmer.

Last week the Palmer Alaska Buzz conducted a social media survey regarding the perception of Palmer’s boundary. Official city limits were not the determining factor; instead it was the identifying that subjective moment in which you felt like you “were kinda in Palmer.”

The question was asked: “When you are driving the Glenn Highway to Palmer from south, where do you think Palmer actually begins? When does it feel like you are on the Palmer approach?”

More inside

It wasn’t a trick question. There were many options for responses and the hundreds of responses were varied and plentiful. Here’s what people had to say.

The majority of people (195) felt Palmer kinda begins at the cut-off on the Parks Highway down near the interchange, near the hay flats and the hospital. A large number (133) felt Palmer begins near the Alaska State Fairgrounds. Some felt (72) that Palmer begins at the Keplar-Bradley Lakes and a few felt it starts at the interchange or other distinct locations.

Many folks had many discussions about what constituted Palmer. Phone number prefixes, zip codes, mailing addresses, bus routes or utility markers were discussed. Why is this conversation important? The reason the Palmer Alaska Buzz asks this type of question is to determine our general perceptions of our community.

In actuality, the city limits are very, very small. The city code and services do notextend beyond the city boundaries. Neither does the city assessments or tax. So metimes we think that Greater Palmer has the same protections and restrictions as do city residents and businesses. That is incorrect. We are fortunate that the City Government, Law Enforcement and Fire folks work well with the Borough and State folks.

Our Palmer Community is (by definition) the greater area—which relies on Palmer for services such as groceries, banks, library, post office, etc. The loosely defined population of the greater Palmer area is approximately 30,000, depending on your boundary definitions. The population of the city is approximately 6500, less than 25% of the larger community. Businesses within city limits collect sales tax to help provide services to the community of Palmer.

The Palmer Alaska Buzz is certainly not the definitive source and it isn’t an official or governmental determination. However, the Palmer Alaska Buzz survey is an efficient and authentic community platform to quickly gauge our collective views and interests. This conversation will continue as we grow and develop as a cohesive community.

Spruce Bark Beetle in Palmer

You can see it far away. It’s those spruce trees which look reddish rusty brown. They are dying and the result of the spruce bark beetle. On the hillsides, in the flat lands, and near the river you can see them. Oftentimes by the time the trees are are showing this disease, the trees are dead. Here is the short version of what we are dealing with:

The beetles are only a quarter of an inch long. They live between the bark and the wood. One mother beetle may birth 150 baby beetles. And sometimes there are more than 100 beetles per square foot of bark. I don’t do math well but that is a lot of beetles.

Beetles feed and breed on wind-thrown, fallen or injured trees. They seek out new host trees and neighboring trees are often their easy choice. They move to new host trees when temperatures are above 60 degrees. Elderly, unhealthy, diseased and mature trees are especially susceptible.

The Spruce Bark Beetle has been navigating around Alaska. We remember it in Kenai. The last two years have been particularly bad north of Wasilla. It is Greater Palmer’s turn.

What do we do? Well we water our healthy trees well. We dispose of beetle kill wood. And we employ preventative measures. You can call in tree specialists and they will treat trees and remove them as well. Some EPA-approved insecticides say that they provide 100 percent protection. Check with an expert tree company or the cooperative before you order weird tree stuff on the internet.

Our Matanuska Susitna Borough is advising and offering us a Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation Plan. There’s free disposal of spruce kill trees at the Central Landfill with size limitations. Contact 861-8520 for details.

So Much to Do—Palmer Cash Mob is this Thursday night. We are on countdown to the first baseball game of the season. The Machatanz Art Festival is this weekend at the college. There’s so much to do right now—have fun and be safe. Look out for pedestrians and ducklings. Enjoy the dandelions. Stay away from crumbling river banks and baby moose.

Barbara Hunt is both Palmer writer and artist. She works hard to keep the robust pulse of Palmer, Alaska. She shares the good stuff on the weekly Palmer Alaska Buzz in the Mat Su Valley Frontiersman and daily on the Palmer Alaska Buzz Facebook Group. Contact at


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