Dawson City, Yukon Friday, October 12, 2001

In late September the tourists were few and far between. Here some German visitors take the view from the top of the Midnight Dome. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Mayor Raises Library Alarm
Council Rejects Farming Proposal
Wilderness Tourism Needs Business Decisions
"Because We Care" Was Teachers' Day Theme
Fewer Bus Tours but More Individuals in Dawson this Year
Gingerbread at the Palace
A Literary Evening at the Pub

Welcome to the Oct. 12, 2001 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 17 photographs and 27 articles which were in the 24 page Oct. 10 hard copy edition. The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, several poems and obviously, all the other material you won't find here. See what you're missing by not subscribing?

Seriously, we do encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun (details on the home page). It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. About 600 people read each issue of this paper online, and we'd love to be sending out that many more papers.

Mayor Raises Library Alarm

by Dan Davidson

Public Librarian Suzanne Gagnon signs up two new library patrons, Mayor Glen Everitt and City Manager Scott Coulson, as part of the library's membership drive. Photo by Dan Davidson

Mayor Glen Everitt has a message for all people of Dawson: "Get a library card."

"We need everyone in Dawson to sign up a library membership," he told council and the television audience last Thursday night. It's very important - sign your children up, too."

Why the sudden concern? Well, it's not just because Children's Book Week is coming up soon.

"The reason why this campaign is so important is because of the government of the Yukon's new formula for determining the hours of operation for public libraries in rural Yukon. There's no longer a population component. Membership plays a key part and the government's plan is to cut the hours in rural Yukon so that they can create libraries in some of the hamlet areas.

"If memberships here do not grow, we could be cut by nine hours. I think it would put us back 20 years in terms of library access."

The Dawson Community Library's hours are currently 36 per week and have been so for decades, even when the town was a lot smaller than it is now.

"Library cards are free," Everitt told his audience. "They also give you the privilege of accessing books from every library in the Yukon as well as books from libraries outside of the Yukon territory."

In addition to books, of course, the library is the site of the public use Gateway computers, which were installed with much fanfare about 18 months ago. It is also the site for free public access to the InterNet. Aside from supervising all those duties, the public librarian is the local contact person for the Berton House writer-in-residence program.

A cut-back in hours would imperil all of those programs, not to mention the access of a tremendous number of summer workers who make use of the facility, but whose memberships, according to public librarian Suzanne Gagnon, do not count as part the statistics being gathered this year.

"It's really important that people take time to pop into the library and get a library card," said Everitt, who did just that along with city manager Scott Coulson on Thursday morning.

"For some people maybe it'll be the first time that you've actually gone in and seen the library. It's a service we can't afford to lose."

Everitt cautioned that students at the Robert Service School who checked out books through the school side of the joint library didn't necessarily have public library cards, and encouraged parents to make sure that they got them.

Councillors Debbie Nagano, Byrun Shandler and Wayne Potoroka indicated that they were solidly behind this campaign. Joann Van Nostrand, who was attending by speakerphone from Whitehorse, joked that she planned to get a card for every room in her hotel, the Downtown, as a sort of corporate membership.


Council Rejects Farming Proposal

by Dan Davidson

The marshy area of land in question in the applications begins just south of the Callison Industrial Subdivision, part of which can be seen at the left of this photograph. Photo by Dan Davidson

Plans to develop an agricultural business between the Callison Industrial Subdivision and the Quigley Landfill were brought to a halt on October 4 when Dawson's council rejected the zoning change application by Michel Vincent and Ed Lilles.

Their application, which had passed all the federal and territorial regulatory stages, would have allowed each of them to establish a hog farm and hay growing operation on the land.

There were two public meetings in regard to these applications. At the first, on October 3, half a dozen residents from that area came to protest any type of farming development in the area. In addition, a petition containing about forty names objecting to the project was presented to council.

Speakers at the first meeting cited drainage problems in the area, and had specific concerns based on the potential health, aesthetic, and predator problems that hogs might create in the area.

Michel Vincent indicated at that meeting that the mention of a hog farm in the application was an error, since he, at least, only ever intended to have three or four animals for personal use. His plan, he concluded, was to grow hay and have a couple of large greenhouses for growing produce.

At the second meeting councillor Byrun Shandler took Vincent to task, pointing out that all the paperwork council had seen made it clear that a hog plan had been the original plan and that any amendments had, in Shandler's mind, been after the fact.

In the end, most of the debate was irrelevant, since council rejected the applications on zoning grounds. Under the official community plan, the land was zoned tourist/commercial, a designation in keeping with the decisions set out in the Klondike Valley Land Use Plan in the early 1990s.

Mayor Glen Everitt noted that he was generally in favour of farming developments, but not there. He will be asking the senior levels of government to forward to Vincent and Lilles locations if other areas in the valley where they might work. In the meantime, he warned council that its decision could be appealed.


Wilderness Tourism Needs Business Decisions

by Dan Davidson

Wendy Radwanski enlightens a group of potential wilderness tourism operators at the Visitor Reception Centre in Dawson. Photo by Dan Davidson

As the traditional summer tourism season draws to a close, legend has it that Dawsonites heave a great sigh of relief as they wave goodbye to the last RV and the final bus tour. Nobody wants to see another tourist before next June.

That would be wrong, of course. There's a whole group of tourism operators who have been working for years to extend the shoulder seasons. That's why the town council was willing to invest $40 thousand to guarantee that the aborted Alaska State Chamber of Commerce AGM was held in Dawson last month.

Recreation centre construction problems notwithstanding, this major event would have taken place during a normally empty week if not for the terrorist crisis in the United States.

Another group of business people (some of them with the same faces) wants to encourage winter season tourism and has tried to capitalize on the Yukon Quest, Fulda Extreme Challenge, and the Trek Over the Top.

Then there's a third group, which seems to have a different set of players in it, people who would like to promote the allure of the Yukon's wilderness, and perhaps do this all year round, with different activities in different seasons.

Sixteen of these people were gathered at Dawson's Visitor Reception Centre on September 29 and 30 to learn about the business end of wilderness tourism.

The Wilderness Tourism Basics Seminar organized by the Klondike Visitors Association and Tourism Yukon was presented by Wendy Radwanski, a consultant whose roots in tourism go back to a number of years spent with the Tourism Industry Association.

"It's essentially business information," Radwanski said, "marketing and licensing regulations, government who-does-what stuff - an overview."

The seminar grew out of requests to the Wilderness Tourism Association to put together some introductory level material. This was researched and assembled with funding from the territorial government's Project Yukon.

Radwanski was very pleased with the turnout and variety represented in the Dawson group.

"It's nice to have a handful who are operating already, because you can really help them with concrete information."

The majority of those present were still at the conceptual stage, thinking "I'd like to do this" but not having a clear idea how to go about it. As one of the sections of the seminar points out, just having a bright idea, a canoe, some paddles and a few sleeping bags really isn't enough these days.

"It's nice to see new product, new ideas and new people," Radwanski said. "The industry is growing very quickly. There's always demand for new product.

"People know you can canoe the Yukon River and do some dog sledding, but if you can find some variations on these, that's good.

"There is more demand than there is product right now, so it's good to see people wanting to go into business."

There are, she said, cycles in the development of a destination. The first stage is often a surprise to locals when hardy individuals arrive to try doing things like canoeing the Yukon River.

"Then there's not really anyone around to guide them, give them advice, or rent them a canoe."

Eventually locals realize that this might be a business opportunity, so they get into rentals, equipment sales, guiding, etc. The fact that they do this enhances the experience, and makes it feasible for a second, less adventurous, group of tourists. Growth accelerates after that, even if it's just by word of mouth, and once real promotional efforts are made, the business moves to another phase.

"You want to find a balance," she said, "so that we're not overwhelmed, but I think we're a long way from that."


"Because We Care" Was Teachers' Day Theme

by Kim Porter, RSS staff rep.

The winners in the guessing contest. Photo by Dan Davidson

Friday, October 5, was World Teachers' Day. Teachers around the territory sported badges with the slogan "Because we care" and participated in various events in their communities.

Robert Service School staff celebrated with a fund-raiser for the Dawson City Humane Society. Teachers donated jars of assorted items, including candy, pencils, small toys; even dog biscuits for a lucky pet. Students had two days to guess the numbers of items in the jars, for 25¢ per guess. The best guesses won the jars on Friday afternoon.

All of the quarters collected for guesses, plus a few donations, came to $351.39 raised for the Humane Society. RSS staff appreciate the work done by the Humane Society, caring for pets in the community and keeping stray dogs off of our streets for the safety of our students.

The following students won goody jars: Eve Derry, Jenelle Favron, Patrick Winkler, James Henderson, Brian Naef, Tracy McDonald, Steve Koscis, Katie Fraser, Cheyenne Rear, Steven Heydorf, Daniel Naef, Lisa Perry, Alex Whitelaw, Kyle Dickson, Kevin Beets and Pascal Causer- McBurney. Congratulations to these winners and thank you to everyone who participated in this successful fund-raiser.


Fewer Bus Tours but More Individuals in Dawson this Year

by Dan Davidson

Klondike National Historic Sites showed some ups and downs in the summer of 2001, but it's overall picture wasn't much different than the year before. The statistics up to the end of the season in September show an overall decline of 6%, a drop from 36,034 to 33,959 visitors at KNHS attractions.

Rose Margeson, who is in charge of interpretive programs, doesn't see this as a major decline.

"Overall, it was a great year for us," she said. "Only two sites were down."

KNHS runs eight major attractions in Dawson and most of them actually increased their number of visitors over last year.

The Robert Service Cabin was up by 50%, to 4947.

The Old Post Office maintained a steady 12,687 visitors.

The Bear Creek Complex tour was up 2%, to 3320.

The big drops were out on Bonanza Creek, where numbers are determined by the number of bus tours that book in. Cancellations were fairly high this year, caused both to drop. Discovery Claim fell 20%, to 578 visitors, while Dredge #4 dropped off by 13%, to 23,583.

The Walking Tours in town break down into five separate sets of numbers and all of them were up. The smallest increase was the Commissioner's Tea, at 11%, while use of self conducted tours by audio tape was up 101%. In between that there were increases of 15% in the Commissioner's Residence tour, 35% in the Town Core walk, and 97% in the French Language tour.

Numbers at the Palace Grand were a bit mixed. Attendance at the Gaslight Follies shrank by 6%, to 22,408 overall, although September numbers were up by a surprising 9%. The daytime Palace Grand tour itself increased by 49%, to 1149 visitors.

"One of the things we tried this year was our 'Pick a Pack' program," Margeson said. "Out of eight programs people were able to choose either three for $10 or four for $15, so they got a free one. It would give people who weren't going to be here long enough to buy a full pass an alternative.

"We tried it out this year for the first time and they sold like hotcakes. Eighteen percent of our revenue came from Pick a Packs.

"Our revenue was up - not by much - but a few thousand dollars over last year. We had less buses but more individuals and that's why that chart looks like that."

Buses, she said, are hard to figure. The various tour companies do a lot of advance bookings during the winter, but it often happens that they can't sell as many seats as they have available to sell, and that results in cancellations, some in the spring, and then a smaller number once the summer season actually begins.

Another innovation this year was the partnership between KNHS and the Klondike Visitors Association, which runs the Jack London Interpretive Centre. Margeson says the arrangements between the presentation at the Robert Service Cabin and that KVA's show will need some work in terms of scheduling, but that the idea was basically positive. Most of the comments from visitors to the two sites were very good.


Gingerbread at the Palace

by Dan Davidson

Kim Barlow shows off her banjo skills. She dropped classical guitar lessons to acquire this skill. Photo by Dan Davidson

There was gingerbread at the Palace Grand Theatre on September 15. Perhaps that should be "Gingerbread", since that is the title of Kim Barlow's latest CD, and that was the occasion.

The Palace may be an unheated building, but Barlow and friends warmed it up that night in spite of the coming autumn chill.

Barlow herself is a multi-talented instrumentalist, trading off guitar, cello and clawhammer style banjo with equal ease. Her stage presence has increased to the point where she even manages to make tuning an interesting experience. There was quite a bit of that, complicated by her use of alternate guitar tunings and the slight chill in the building.

She told the audience that after this night she was going to give in and get a tuner.

"I've always thought they were for wimps," said the classically trained Barlow, " but after tonight ..."

Accompanying Barlow was a group of talented musicians, including Andrea McColeman on keyboards, Lonnie Powell on drums and percussion, Stephen Kozmeniuk on electric bass, Jay Burr on vocals, tuba, and saw (Yeah! Who needs a synthesiser anyway?), and Aylie Sparks on Dobro and lap steel guitar.

Anne Louise Genest provided a fine opening act in spite of a snapping microphone and a few technical glitches. She carried on in spite of the problems and worked around them, having a voice strong enough to fill the hall without a microphone, though it's much easier to add vocal nuances when you have one. She also joined in on backing vocals on several numbers.

Barlow has played Dawson a number of times now, and recalls being dragged on stage by a Barenaked Lady (the capitals are important here) a few music festivals ago, before CDs and a solo career.

It would be hard to pin down Barlow's style exactly. There are touches of bluegrass, jazz, alternative folk and mainstream pop, all nicely integrated into her performances. Her lyrics tell stories in a manner reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. This means you have to listen as well as just tap your toes. There was lots of both going on at Barlow's Dawson concert. It was a most enjoyable evening.


A Literary Evening at the Pub

by Dan Davidson

Steven Heighton at the microphone at Peggy's. Photo by Dan Davidson

In "Deaths and Entrances", the opening piece in his last book of essays, Steven Heighton described his first public reading in Kingston, for which he faced "like the condemned poet trussed in his chair ... in the war film Breaker Morant" an audience "about the size of a firing squad."

A dozen or so years later he was obviously much more at ease at he faced an audience of a couple dozen on a recent Saturday evening at Bombay Peggy's Victorian Inn and Pub in Dawson. Since then, of course, he's published a second book of poetry, two novels, that book of essays, and become a recognizable voice in the literary sections of the national papers and on radio. When Al Purdy, who praised Heighton's early work, died last year, Steven was one of the panel of eulogists on "This Morning".

Let's just say he's mastered public speaking.

At Peggy's he introduced himself by talking a little about the poem that he wasn't going to read, because it still sucked and was a work in progress, though he later read another one that was also an early draft.

Most of his readings that evening were from the Shadow Boxer, his last novel. The book is the story of Sivigne, a young man who wants to be a poet, but seems doomed to do a lot of other things to justify himself first. Heighton picked several of the rites of passage in the novel for his readings: Sivigne's first lover, his last boxing match, his brush with death.

The boxing match, in particular, stirred comments from the audience, and Heighton admitted that he had had to actually do some boxing - as a sparring partner - before he could get it right. The first draft just didn't work.

After the drama of those excerpts, he provided some quieter meditations in verse, and some light humour in the form of what he called "a job interview from Hell" taken from the opening pages of his collection of linked stories Flight Paths of the Emperor.

The evening opened and was punctuated by Wendy Perry's work on vocals and piano. There was time for conversation and visiting in between the two halves of the reading. It was a pleasant evening.


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