Dawson City, Yukon Friday, February 2, 2001

Sun on the Ice Bridge. Looking back to Dawson, you can see how this year's version of the people's ice bridge hugs the shoreline of the Yukon River. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

YTG Does Not Intend to Replace Dawson's Council
Mayor Upset with MLA
Bridge Supporters Pack Pre-budget Meeting
How Odd Was It?
Simmons Climbs the Walls at the Oddfellows Hall
The Janitor Stole the Show
Pictou Island Author Bound for Dawson City Retreat
A Rambling River Crossing
Editorial: All Along the River Bank - a Political Fable

Welcome to the Feb. 2, 2001 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 23 photographs and 29 articles which were in the 24 page January 30 hard copy edition. This Feb. 17 posting is late due to the collapse of one of the Yukon's internet service providers. We are now one issue behind our normal schedule.

YTG Does Not Intend to Replace Dawson's Council

by Dan Davidson

There seem to be a variety of opinions as sto the true state of the City of Dawson's finances.

Dawsonites awoke on January 19 to hear voices on CBC radio announce that the "battle lines had been drawn" and that the territorial government was "one step away" from "firing the mayor and council" over their alleged mismanagement of funds.

Instead, YTG was going to send in a supervisor, Community Services director Ken Hodgins, to help the community come up with a multi-year financial plan to deal with any possible shortfalls.

Almost immediately Peter Jenkins, the MLA for the Klondike Riding which includes Dawson, was on the radio applauding the government's good sense in stepping in to rescue the community from the financial disaster which he had, he said, been warning people about for the last four years.

Meanwhile, in Dawson, city council members were puzzled. They knew that their most recent request for financial assistance to help complete the recreation centre renovations properly had been turned down as a grant but had been agreed to as an advance on funds previously earmarked by YTG to finance the construction of a secondary sewage treatment facility.

Their own calculator exercises had convinced them that they could just manage to finance the rec project without help, but that it would cut their budget too close to the bone for comfort which was why they had asked for help.

They were not planning to meet to decide on what they would do about this offer from the government until that weekend, so the press release and subsequent media frenzy caught them by surprise.

Minister of Community and Transportation Services Pam Buckway was also caught by surprise. While there were clearly differences of opinion between her and Dawson's council, she wouldn't have characterized it as a battle, and she knew that she had not said anything about dismissing the recently elected body, nor did she think there was any need to.

She was aware of the potential for misunderstanding in this case. She had, indeed, taken a lot of trouble to make sure that the local paper was informed of the impending appointment of the supervisor the night that it was announced and had discussed the matter quite fully the next day, admitting to her complete shock at the tone of the CBC's lead story. Given the tale of relations between Jenkins and the City of Dawson over the last 8 months, she was less surprised by the Klondike MLA's reaction to the story.

She was very clear with the Sun about two things:

1) The City of Dawson had not exceeded its spending authority at the time she chose to act. She was concerned that the current projects plus the additional burden of the impending sewer and water upgrade, might cause this to happen and so was prepared to "assist" the community in devising a plan to avoid the problem.

2) Further, at no time had she even contemplated asking for what the Municipal Act calls an order by the Commissioner in Executive Council to "dismiss the council or the member."

(Previous territorial governments have asked the Inspector of Municipalities to look into Dawson politics twice in the last 16 years. Both times were during the tenure of Peter Jenkins as mayor, and the investigations were to determine if the mayor's authority had been exceeded by the incumbent. Both investigations concluded that it had, but there was no recommendation for dismissal from those either.)

Buckway also indicated to the Sun that the territorial government was not going to exercise paragraph 6 of the regulations regarding supervisors, which says that the municipality may be required to pay the salary and expenses of the person appointed.

(The entire original text of Buckway's press release can be found on the one of our News from the Capital pages in this issue.)

Jenkins, in the meantime, had continued his attack on the council, telling the Yukon News' reporter Kathy Ramsey (formerly of the Insider) that Buckway's account of the affair was "nonsense" in a story on January 22.

"The town's mayor and council broke the law by committing money to projects the town couldn't afford, he said.

"'The appointment of a supervisor is not something that the city should be taking lightly; it's a very serious provision of the Municipal Act,' he said.

"' What (it) means is the town has breached the act. There's consequences spelled out in the (legislation) for when you commit an illegal act. And the council that approved this expenditure could be held liable for that expenditure.'"

Council was furious with what it felt was the gloating response by MLA Jenkins and Mayor Everitt issued a blistering press release critical of Jenkins' public comments. (see related story next).

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It would be useful, at this point, to provide some background to this story.

In the fall of 1999, the City of Dawson was provided with a massive injection of capital finding by the NDP territorial government, totalling $10.4 million. There were two main parts to this funding: recreation ($5.6 million) and sewage treatment ($4.8 million) All of this was to be grant money with no repayment required.

(It should be noted that the City Hall/Fire Hall, or 3CM project, was not funded out of this money, but out of contingency finds set aside over several years for that purpose.)

After several months of arguing the city convinced the government that it should be able to tap the entire sum as needed as long as it could still handle the secondary sewage treatment project in some way. To this end, it had begun exploring a long term arrangement with EPCOR, an Edmonton company which was prepared to invest in, supervise construction of, and run the water facility.

All of this had been agreed to by both parties and reported at council meetings, but not all of it was necessarily on paper. The details were to have been included in the NDP's spring budget.

Then came the election, in which the NDP were defeated by the Liberals who nevertheless did promise to carry through with all the spending earmarked in that budget.

(During this same campaign. MLA Jenkins was very open about taking credit for his contributions in gaining the capital funding needed for these projects. This, not warnings of municipal indiscretion, was part of his platform.)

They kept that promise, but in Dawson's case a sizable chunk of the original grant was converted into a long term debenture, combined with money the city had previously borrowed to finance sewer expansion, and refinanced at a lower rate of interest. It was still a good deal, but not the one on which the City had based its plans.

Further, the new government was not interested in Dawson council's vision of a public/private partnership with EPCOR, and wanted to be sure that funding for secondary sewage treatment came from the $10.4 million. They froze that portion of the capital funding agreement.

This left the City of Dawson short in its recreation planning and up against the walls of a recreation centre which had already been gutted.

At a summer meeting Everitt explained that the original Capital Funding Agreement with the NDP had required the town to meet a certain set of construction deadlines. Thermal siphons were to have been placed in the ground by a certain time in order for the money to flow as agreed. This meant tearing up the arena and curling rink and, once that was done, there wasn't much practical choice but to go ahead with the rest of the work.

In a letter to Everitt, dated January 17, 2001, Buckway protested that "There is nothing in the (CFA) that specified where the new recreation facility would be located or that the arena needed to be demolished in order to undertake the project."

This begs the issue, in that the plans and location of the rec centre renovation were well known and reported on from even before the relocation of the City Office/Fire Hall complex in the fall of 1999. City sources protest that there was no reason for the construction details to be part of the CFA, though the timelines were, since the government of the day was anxious to use these projects as winter works in Dawson.

(The architect, Ferguson Simek Clark, also underestimated the cost of a similar project in Carmacks, where the YTG stepped in to meet the shortfall. FSC has been hired to design the Whitehorse multiplex, but the council there has hired a second firm to do the costing estimates from FSC's designs.)

By September of 2000, the territorial government had agreed to loan Dawson an additional $4.6 million, essentially the money that EPCOR would have recovered from the town during the life of its contract under the city's proposed partnership.

Recreation woes did not end there, though. The architect's costing estimates for the rec expansions turned out to be grossly conservative. Council had budgeted $6.3 million for it. All the tenders for the project were way over the proposed budget, the lowest being $7.9 million, and the council had to cut back. Not wanting to go too far, since part of the point of the project was to make the Bonanza Centre a viable site for hosting conventions, council asked YTG for an additional $2.4 million to finish the project, which they had contracted with TSL Contractors to build at a cost of $6.8 million.

Even while that was under consideration, city staff were busy with calculators and pencils and determined that, by rescheduling and leaving some of the finish work to a later date, they could get the request down to $800,000.

It was this sum which triggered the territorial government's concerns, along with Dawson's projected estimates for handling the long term operations costs on the sewage plant. Every council for the last 16 years has said that O&M on a secondary sewage plant was going to be a fiscal killer, so that should come as no surprise. It was been one of the primary reasons why Dawson has not wanted to build such a plant.

The $800,000 is not additional money, by the way. It is an advance on the money set aside for sewage plant construction. It has to be replaced, but there is no interest involved.

In her speaking notes for the press conference on January 18 Buckway said, "Council will continue to function as normal, but with financial controls in place."

The appointed supervisor, Ken Hodgins, met with council on January 22. No details have been released by either side, except to say that the meetings were cordial and productive.

Everitt has previously commented on the fact that the capital spending was going to make for a tight budget. He admitted as much during his re-election campaign. He believes that the $800,000 would give the city a useful cushion, even though it might not be necessary, and since there is no cost involved, he thinks it might be a good deal.

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Mayor Upset with MLA

by Dan Davidson

Dawson's Mayor Glenn Everitt has about had it with the Klondike's MLA Peter Jenkins. Sparks have been flying in earnest since the territorial election campaign, when Dawson's municipal council took Jenkins to task for claiming all the credit for what he proclaimed to be Dawson's rosy economic outlook, especially the amount of money that the NDP government of day had promised to the community for capital projects.

Shortly after the election, Jenkins changed his mind and decided that the outlook was not so fine after all. He issued a public letter demanding an accounting of the town's finances, the first overt sign that he was concerned.

Now, in the wake of the Liberal Yukon Government's concerns over Dawson's books, Jenkins has gone on radio to proclaim that it was about time, that the Liberals had no choice, and that he had been warning everyone about Dawson's proliferation of capital projects for the last four years.

Everitt has issued a counterstrike, a press release reminding the public that only "nine months ago Mr. Jenkins was bragging ... that he had done all the work in getting the funding for these projects.

"The hypocrisy of Mr. Jenkins in politicizing an issue like this one for his own advantage, while refusing to meet with Dawson City Council to learn the facts, is typical of his style."

Everitt goes on to note that the M.L.A.'s personal business affairs might need supervising: "After all, it is public knowledge that Mr. Jenkins has owed YTG approximately $250,000 for several years and has not been making reasonable attempts to pay it back."

Everitt added that there will soon be a public meeting in Dawson (January 29 is the anticipated date) at which concerned residents will be given all the facts related to the appointment of the territorial government's supervisor and the money which the town will soon owe the government.

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Bridge Supporters Pack Pre-budget Meeting

by Dan Davidson


Bill Hakonson makes a point to the government visitors. Photo by Dan Davidson

Transportation, infrastructure and communication were the main themes of a two hour pre-budget consultation meeting held at the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Cultural Centre on January 17.

Liberal MLAs Mike McLarnon and Jim McLaughlin met with a group of locals which grew up to eleven in size to cap a day of meetings which had included other groups in the community.

What they heard was that this group, at any rate, fully supported the construction of a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City, completing the loop which is the Klondike Highway - Top of the World Highway route, allowing for months of extra access to the tourism market in Alaska, enabling the transportation of cheaper fuel from the refineries there and laying the foundation for increased tourism in Dawson and the entire territory.

Miner and golf club owner Bill Hakonson was the most vocal proponent of the bridge concept, which he said could be easily done by having the federal government build it in exchange for a deal to pay them back out the money to be saved annually on the running of the George Black Ferry.

"I amazed that it hasn't been done," Hakonson said forcefully. "I've been fighting for a bridge for forty goddam years. The fight has all been political."

By this Hakonson meant that it is only politics which has prevented the construction of the bridge to this point. He feels strongly that there have never been any pressing engineering, environmental or financial considerations which ought to have prevented it.

Hakonson characterized the economy of Dawson and the Yukon as being in deep trouble. Mining, he said, was in the toilet and about the only hope for stable employment on the horizon was tourism, which needed to be encouraged in every way possible.

The only nay-sayer at the meeting was Roger Mendelsohn, who works on the ferry during the summer season and feels strongly that the bridge has been oversold to the public here. He doesn't see the visitor numbers at either end of the current season.

"I don't," he said, "know where people get the idea that Alaskans are going to flock in here just because we have a bridge."

He also noted that the costs of keeping the highway open would more than eat up the savings from the ferry. He felt that an improved airport would be far more beneficial.

Undeterred, Hakonson continued his bridge lecture, pointing out that this year residents in West Dawson had been a month and a half after the ferry came out without any access across the river, which is still wide open at the place where the ice bridge has traditionally been made each winter.

The first proposal for a bridge would have been only $7 million, had it been done when it was first proposed.

"We never got it."

In the late 1960s the Clinton Creek asbestos mine went into operation for ten years and had to use a tram line across the river as there was still no bridge, even with a major mine just a couple of hours drive away from Dawson.

"The second time," Hakonson recalled, "Clinton Creek offered to pay half the price of a bridge. They would put $3.5 million and the territorial government would put up the rest. They (YTG) refused that."

Hakonson maintained that it was blocked by an MLA from Haines Junction, "who wanted the traffic to up and back through his riding.

"It's asinine that we don't have this. It should be part of our road system."

Hakonson was not the only speaker at the meeting. Mill owner Bill Bowie, miner and mechanic Ralph Nordling, city manager Jim Kincaid an MLA Peter Jenkins all added their support.

Nordling works on the highways crew that maintains the George Black Ferry each year, and he had a great deal to say about the need for work on the boat and what he and his co-workers have to go through each year to keep it afloat and moving.

As a miner, Nordling also talked about the need to deal with other access issues. Environmental protection has now, he said, become too stringent to allow development to occur. He and a partner have expended close to $100,000 in a bid to develop a small mine in an untouched area and can't get either a yes or no from the committee looking at the project because it only makes decisions by consensus. It's taken four years to get nowhere and he still doesn't have even a rejection.

Access problems, he said, could mean regulatory restrictions, could mean roads, could mean lack of communication resources.

Barb Hanulik, also a miner, brought up the recent assault by DIAND inspectors on miners who are also operating small scale tourism businesses on the side to help make ends meet. She said the regulations that have been applied to them were originally worked up to deal with people who did nothing but use their claims as homesteads. The original problem settlers are still there, but the miners are now getting hurt by an unexpected spin-off.

Hanulik also wanted to know if "this discussion can really affect the budget" since her understanding was that it must be pretty well completed by now.

McLaughlin assured her that, while major items were in close to final shape, there were still things that this consultation could influence.

Social worker Bonnie Nordling thanked the government for recent increases in rates and changes to the system which had enabled her to help more people to a greater extent in her work.

Representatives from the Dawson City Arts Society expressed concern that the government might not have a full appreciation of the growing significance of arts and culture to the economy, especially the work that Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, which DCAS is attempting to establish here with its base in the old Oddfellows Hall. Without programs like the Community Development Fund, that project could never have been completed to the stage it has reached now.

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How Odd Was It?

by Pat Russell


Glenda Bolt shows off her "oddball" style at the Odd Ball. Photo by John Steins

"Better than a stick in the eye"! When said about an event such as the Odd Ball, the reader might take this to mean that it was not much fun at all (but not bad, compared to a stick in the eye). For those of you who were lucky enough to attend the Second Annual New Year's Eve Odd Ball, however, you could both have fun AND get a stick in the eye. For those of you who weren't lucky enough to be there, read on.

The writer arrived at the Odd Fellows' Hall about 9:30 and from outside the building, the gallery/martini bar, lit with white icicle lights and filled with the merriment of guests, was mystical. On entering, mystical was transformed to odd, an industrial/medieval theme, appropriately enough, as strange people in masks confronted me. For a moment, I thought I'd fallen into a scene from Fellini's 81/2 until I remembered that it was a masquerade ball ñ what a relief!

So what might you ask has any of this got to do with a stick in the eye? Blame it on "the stick man". Who knew it was legal to put a wicker basket on your head festooned with willow and to turn your winter gloves into tree branches. Reportedly, it was the only mask to be found at the last minute on the ride from Whitehorse to Dawson. You probably begin to understand the risk of doing swing dancing, the bird dance, the hokey-pokey or the lumbada given the risk of eye injury. KIAC's high priced risk consultant advised that the only safe dance to its liability was "techno-funk". This is the only explanation I can find for the music selection. Dom, Dylan and Janice made a valiant effort to appease the yuppies in the crowd with a little CCR just before 3:00 am, but imagine having no Beatles?! What is the world coming to? Despite my limited appreciation for the "techno" music genre, the rest of the crowd seemed unconcerned as they popped, slid, jerked and gyrated to the tunes.

This gave the rest of us time to check out the great masks and outfits. There were masks made of wood with painted faces (Gee Gwen and Mike, I always wondered what it would feel like to have a piece of pressboard hanging off my face?); feathers and beads, plastic, plaster paris, wicker and willow. Many of the masks were made only a few days before at a secret mask-making coven in Rock Creek. The mask that provided its own track lighting - two tea lights, one on either side of the mask - was my personal favorite. I'm just glad John Lenart's hair didn't become the Centennial Flame. There were too many great masks to describe here, but Glenda Bolt's mask took first prize in the competition, Chera Hunchuk second and Penny Soderlund was close on her heels in third place. The door prizes were won by Bonnie Nordling, Paula Hassard and Steve Nordik (ask him about the flying pig).

Of course, evening garb ranged from the sublime to the free and easy look. Dom gets my vote for the "most likely to be ready for summer" prize with his shorts, while Gabby Sgaga reminded us that there will be summer again in her sun mask and matching gown. Corsets, if worn, were sported only by women (as far as I could tell)! What can I say; it was Dawson at its usual ñ always surprising.

The food, masterminded by Brian Phelan and James Koyanagi, was fabulous, especially the desserts. Champagne, horns, streamers and balloons heralded the midnight hour and the haunting notes of Also Sprach Zarathustra raised goose bumps as glasses were raised and kisses and hugs, varying in intensity, were shared all around. How odd was it? In classic KIAC style, it was vibrant, classy, fun, filling and at the price, it would be the envy of the outside's idea of a New Year's Eve celebration. Eat your heart out New York!

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Simmons Climbs the Walls at the Oddfellows Hall

by Dan Davidson


Al Simmons seeks out the heart of the mystery in "The Celery Stalks at Midnight". Photo by Dan Davidson

From the moment Al Simmons strolled onto the stage at the Oddfellows Hall to complain that "Sam, you made the pants to long" until the time when he literally went ape during his exit from the second floor ballroom, the lanky entertainer had his audience right where he wanted it: in the palm of his hand and laughing with delight.

It's been along trek for Simmons, who started out as a reluctant bar band rock 'n' roll singer in a group called Out to Lunch in Winnipeg. You can still hear that reverb growl when he does his spoof of "I'm a Man" just before devolving into something less, but Simmons says he was always interested in the older songs and when the gigs were going sour he sometimes saved the evening by capering and clowning around.

By the early 1980s he was The Human Jukebox, and made the rounds of the various folk festivals as a novelty act, a trickster who really could sing. He's played the Yukon and the Dawson City Music Festival a time or two and has carved out a role for himself as a children's entertainer. Folks may recall his spots on Sesame Street or remember that he won a Juno Award for his album "The Celery Stalks at Midnight".

Al's proud of his Juno and hands it around the audience so people can see it up close. He tells us he's collecting fingerprints.

The wonderful thing about really good childrens' entertainers is that they work on two levels. The kids appreciate what they are doing for the sheer fun of it and the energy they put into the act, while the older folks understand the tradition, get the second level of the joke and appreciate the love that always sits behind the spoof.

Whether he's wearing a funny hat and singing "Yellow Bird", telling horrible fish jokes or walking the audience through the X-files-like adventure of the "The Celery Stalks at Midnight", Simmons is full of energy and transmits it to the audience. He puts so much of himself into his act that he is literally quivering from the rush as he pulls his props together after the show.

Or perhaps it was just the fatigue from that show stopping exit, when he suddenly morphed into a great ape and went rampaging through the hall, finally exiting by climbing to the balcony high above the floor over the main entrance to the ballroom.

Simmons arrived in Dawson fresh from a stint at a drama workshop in Whitehorse and a gig at the Just for Laughs comedy festival, after which he returned there to perform in several of the schools. In Dawson the kids had to be content with an afternoon matinee. Some of them came back for the evening show.

Al Simmon's visit to Dawson was a joint production of the Dawson City Music Festival and the Dawson City Arts Society.

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The Janitor Stole the Show

by Dan Davidson


Avner with the kids after the show, autographing and comparing paper critters. Photo by Dan Davidson

The quiet little man with the broom, bowler hat and baggy pants held up with suspenders appears just as the show is about to begin, cleaning up the stage. Apparently taken aback by the announcement that the show will begin in five minutes, he bashfully pulls up a chair and consults a variety of timepieces. He becomes aware of the audience, which has been amused by the first of the many lost hat routines which will punctuate the evening, and begins to interact.

This is Avner the Eccentric (the idiosyncratic, the unbelievable, the adaptable, the magnificent), as Avner Eisenberg prefers to be known professionally, and for the next hour and a half or so, he will have most of the audience under his spell. Those that aren't, not quite, are a little too young to appreciate just exactly what's happening, but he works their trips to the washroom into his schtick and adapts everything that happens so that it fits.

While the pantomime seems to drift surrealistically from one happenstance to another, the act must be carefully choreographed, the potentially more difficult stunts always interwoven with the running gags that look so easy but surely are not.

Aver has played with popcorn, juggled and done several other things when an audience member arrives late. Avner ponders, then does a condensed version of the first 15 minutes at high speed, only to fall apart completely when another guy arrives just after he receives an ovation for this tour de force.

The hat stays on his head whenever it doesn't make any difference, and falls off whenever it does, but it provides a jumping off point for silly bits with brooms, clubs and stacked paper cups. He outdoes himself, though, when he bends over to simply pick it up and has to lengthen his right arm to grab it. The outcome is that first his left arm, then his legs, and the whole of his body gets out of symmetry, and he has to go through some fierce adjustments to balance himself.

Avner doesn't like cameras during the show. No announcement is made, but when one goes off, he works it into the routine, steals it, flashes it in peoples' faces, sets up poses, returns it only after he has it wrapped in so many layers of paper and scarves that no one could miss the message.

Avner, balances, juggles and stumbles his way through his routine, seamlessly shifting from one activity to the next, checking the clock every so often to let us know that it'll be just 5..4..3..2.. minutes more before the real entertainment arrives.

As the kids get a little antsy towards the end he involves them in a kind of Pied Piper routine with his remaining popcorn, almost ushering a few of them out the fire door onto the landing outside. The crew tell us afterward that he actually managed to pull this stunt off in Haines Junction, to great acclaim from the remaining adults in the hall there.

Afterwards, Avner appears out of costume and shares some time with some of those very kids who were a bit off the wall, comparing origami critters and signing autographs.

Avner the Eccentric appeared in a packed Oddfellows Ball Room courtesy of the Dawson City Music Festival and the Dawson City Arts Society, whose next production will be Tricontinental, on February 9.

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Pictou Island Author Bound for Dawson City Retreat

by Harry Sullivan
First published in the New Glasgow Evening News

Goodbye Pictou Island, hello Dawson City.

Such as it is for Maureen Hull who left Monday for Canada's gold rush city where she has been invited on a writing retreat to the boyhood home of author Pierre Berton.

"I'm expecting it to be quite cold," Hull said of the Yukon climate, "and quite spectacular in a way I'm not accustomed to."

Berton established his former home as a writers' residence a number of years ago and participants are selected through an application process by a Berton House committee. For three months at a stay writers receive complete lodging and a stipend to help with living expenses.

The intention is to provide writers with the time and creative space to permit them to make progress on existing works or to start new ones.

But there is no demand to complete any writing or to even show what you have accomplished, Hull said, and "if you just want to sit and think that's fine with them."

Hull fully expects to do more than that. She is hoping to finish the first draft of a novel she has been working on the past couple of years and to also conduct readings of her works to students in Dawson City and Whitehorse.

So far, Hull's published works include a collection of short stories (Righteous Living) and a children's book (Wild Cameron Women). She has also completed a poetry manuscript which is still in the hands of the publishers.

A native of Cape Breton, Hull came to Pictou Island in 1976 in the middle of fishing season after meeting her husband to be, David Harding, in Halifax where she was then attending university. "I never left," she said.

"I liked the people. I really liked all the space, the physical space and mental space."

She also became attracted to a life that allowed her to be more connected to the "natural world in a way you don't get in cities."

While solar panels, portable gasoline generators, satellite television and the Internet are now common components of Island life, that was not the case when she moved there. Doing without such conveniences as electricity and indoor plumbing provided great challenges, Hull said, but it also helped her develop as a person.

"Oddly enough, I found that being able to manage..., I've never been challenged like that before, it was an accomplishment. It was rewarding learning how to do it."

It was also an adjustment to live in such an isolated setting. But, that too provided its own rewards and, together, the couple built a home and raised two daughters, now aged 19 and 20, who are both attending Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Like most Island children, the majority of her daughters' education came through home study, which Hull views as a distinct advantage because of the one-on-one time they received.

"And they are being taught by the people who care the most about them," she said. "We were able to do a lot more in fewer hours of the day because there are only two of them."

That also enabled them to take educational expeditions which provided "the freedom to wander and explore things outside the regular curriculum."

Her daughters learned to be "very independent," they went fishing with their parents and learned how to work in the boat and they learned to "see something through to the end," Hull said.

Considering both daughters received numerous university scholarship offers and are attending America's oldest and one of its most prestigious learning institutions, those lessons obviously paid off.

In addition to the other attributes of Island life that Hull has come to love, she also described it as "wonderful community to have children in.

"Everybody looks after them and out for them. Everybody is kind to them," she said.

Being isolated means you have to plan better and be more organized than someone who can slip out to a store on a moment's notice. And with only nine families on the Island it also means a lot of close contact with the same few people, which demands that you learn to get along with your neighbours.

And while that may not "always be easy," she said, "you learn to work it out."

Hull expects to find a lot of similarities to Island life when she heads to the Yukon but she is also looking forward to exploring its differences and to meeting new people.

She knows it will be cold but at least she won't have to pay the heating bill. She is not sure how she will take to living with just a few hours of sunshine per day but, once again, she is looking forward to the experience.

And while she "very much so" is looking forward to the trip she does not anticipate it will be difficult to leave for home either.

One of her first impressions when she arrived on the Island 24 years ago was how "beautiful" it is, she said. And, like her own presence there, that is a feeling that has never eroded with time.

"Coming back on the ferry, when I see the Island I realize how lucky I am to be here."

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A Rambling River Crossing

by Dan Davidson


A passing musher: The ice bridge is home to all sorts of vehicles. Photo by Dan Davidson

Folks have been crossing the Yukon River at Dawson City for a few weeks now, though it was a month and a half this year before the trick could be managed. At first it was walkers, then skidoos and finally light and medium sized trucks.

And finally, after everyone else has proved it's pretty safe out there, the press takes a turn.

This is not the first year that the public has taken matters into its own hands and carved out a route, but it is certainly a different route than the last two times this had to be done.

Previously the river has failed to freeze further north and it was possible to ease over the dyke, take the low road, slide onto the ice south of the Commissioners' Residence and wend one's way (sslloowwllyy) to the west bank and from thence to the ferry landing and the Top of the World Highway.

This year, it's different.

Ice Bridge 2001 starts at the east bank ferry landing and heads north, hugging the shoreline and passing overhanging trees sheathed in ice, winding in and out for about 900 metres.

On a typical trip you might meet a couple of skidoos and a dog team, which can pass by you, though it's nice if you slow down to let them. There are pull-outs designed into the one-lane track so that vehicles can go in both directions if they are neighbourly about it.

At a certain point the trail splits, one part heading off to Moosehide while the rest bends just over 90? back on itself and begins a slantwise traverse of the river, following a path which an informed person says takes it over a number of sandbars and shallows. These are comforting reassurances when you look south and see a wide and lengthy expanse of steaming open water only a few hundred metres from where you are driving.

This is not a road for a low slung vehicle. The bumps and dips are numerous, and you really don't want to hit anything very hard, just in case it's not as solid as it appears.

Four wheel drive is comforting as you approach the western shore and note that the exit, just north of the ferry landing, is looking a bit steep and slick. Along by the YTG campground various skidoo trails lead onto the bridge, testimony to residents who have found a shorter route to the river than the highway takes.

Up off the bridge and with nowhere really to go, it's just a matter of turning around and driving back. Once you know you aren't going to take an impromptu dip, it's easier to appreciate the eerie beauty of the ride.

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Editorial: All Along the River Bank - a Political Fable

by Dan Davidson

Times had grown lean along the Riverbank, and the animals were finding that it was difficult to keep old animosities in perspective. In a land where a grey winter climate was the normal thing, community chatter tended to gravitate to other, more mercurial topics, such as civic politics.

For Old Toad this was a difficult debate to stay out of. He had, after all, been the leader of his little community for years, until he had moved on to the district level of government, and sometimes he just found it hard not to comment on the things he saw going on around him.

The town centre business, now, that was a bit of a mess, and he really didn't agree with a lot of what had been done with the project.

That Young Toad who was currently sitting in the head burger's office had, in his opinion, made somewhat of a botch-up of things over the last few months.

Still, Young Toad had been elected to his position - twice now - just as Old Toad had twice been elected to his, and he supposed that it was the proper thing to respect the popular choice and let democracy do its work.

Actually, as he knew well, simply being quiet about the affair wasn't nearly enough to do. Most of the animals in Riverside District actually lived in Riverbank, and those who didn't used its services.

For everyone's sake it was essential that the voices representing the region spoke from the same text, and gave out the same meaning.

How difficult this was, he thought, when the parties did not share the same vision.

Well, there was really nothing to be done about it. The inevitable fact was that when he spoke, people assumed he spoke for his region as district representative and when the head burger spoke, the same thing was assumed with regard to the village. When it came to dealing with the district assembly, it was essential to keep the differences to a minimum.

There was nothing for it, he thought resignedly, shucking off his slippers and wriggling into his shoes. He would have to take the time to sit down with the village council and help them hammer out an action plan. It would be for the good of everyone, and that was what really counted.

What was the phrase from that silly show on the telly? Oh yes: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ... or the one." Maybe, just maybe, it was true this time. He would have to find out.

Unfortunately, the forgoing story was just a fable ... so far.

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