Dawson City, Yukon ∑ Friday, July 4, 2003

Bill Jackson pipes to mark the Solstice. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Midnight on Dawson's Domes
Sunshine Smiles on Afternoon Tea
Commissioner's Awards Handed Out in Dawson
The Commissioner Steaks the Dyke
Aboriginal Day Celebrations
AGM of the Dawson City Arts Society
Taking the Rose to the Water
No Gold Gallery Aims for a Different Sort of Glitter
Yukon as Exotic as Africa to Southern Kids, Says Berton House Writer
Boardwalks and Roadwork Improve Dawson Streets
Everitt Favours Bridge
Sewage Solution Is Out of Reach
YTG Letter on Municipal Issues Called "Hooey"

Welcome to the July 4, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the photographs and articles that were in the July 2 hard copy edition. This is the only July issue of the paper we will manage to get posted until August, since our editor (who is posting this issue from a lakefront in Nova Scotia) is now on vacation.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. The only thing you would not get is the colour photo at the beginning of the on-line issues. We canít afford to print in colour.

Since we went online in March 1996 our counter has crashed a number of times. The first counter logged about 25,000 visitors. The second one, which crashed recently, logged about 51,000. The current counter went online in April of this spring and was sitting at 5700 in mid June.

Anybody Got a Loonie?

If every person who logged onto this website would send us a loonie, weíd be able to pay off the lease on our new laser printer in just a few issues. Seriously folks, since the beginning of this year there are more of you reading this digest edition of the Sun than there are reading the real thing on paper. A second online reader has made a contribution to our printer fund. More on that in a few weeks.

Midnight on Dawson's Domes

by Dan Davidson

Solstice watching depends on a lot of variables. You need a clear sky, with just enough cloud to tease some of the more dramatic colours out of the sunbeams. It can't rain. There must not be an active forest fire within a hundred kilometres, or else the wind must be blowing the right way.

All of these conditions were in effect this year for the June 21 summer solstice.

Parking was at a premium if you arrived late at the Midnight Dome that evening. Indications are that a good many motorhomes and campers had staked out some of the best vantage points along the perimeter of the hill above Dawson City by five o'clock that afternoon, and didn't move until they had seen what they came for, leaving the rest of the visitors and locals to fill in where they could.

The bald dome above the parking area was milling with people by 11:30. Some had cameras set up on tripods, already aimed down the Yukon River to the place where the event was NOT going to occur. Hundreds of people and dozens of vehicles had arrived at the Dome by this time. People of every age from preteen to senior; vehicles of every size and shape.

What was not going to happen was simple yet impressive. The sun was not actually going to set on this night. Oh, it would disappear behind the hills if you were down in the town, but that would just be a change from sunlight to strong twilight. On higher ground, however, the sun would just continue west to north-west, to north, to north-east, and finally back to where it usually seems to rise, having done no more than dip down to the line of the horizon during the few hours between 11 PM and 2 AM.

Why 2 AM? Well, Yukon time is already a time zone ahead of where Sir Stanford Fleming put it through most of the year, arbitrarily shifted to the Pacific time zone, so when it moves to daylight savings time in April, it really moves two hours out of sync with Fleming's plan; so the midnight that most people have come to see doesn't really arrive until 2 AM.

The Midnight Dome is too crowded for this story, however, so we will move the scene to higher ground. Yup - higher ground.

The Dawson fire tower sits atop what is variously known as the Second Dome or the Fire Dome. On this particular night fire watcher Bill Jackson is playing host to a few friends and a "fam tour" group of about 25 German tourism operators who have been told this is a better place from which to see the "sunset". Their informants were not wrong.

It used to be an even nicer place. Until a few years ago Jackson had a department approved sauna and a solid viewing platform up here, but some silly federal bureaucrat had it removed as part of the process of putting his stamp on the operation. Rumour has it that Bill has been asked to build another one, so things may be even better next year. Devolution in action?

As it stands, however, the group of 35 or so gathered on the Fire Dome are much quieter than the hordes on the lower Midnight Dome, which can be seen from here. And the view is just excellent.

At 11:59 sharp Jackson, kilted and tammed, strides from the cabin he lives in during the summer, takes a stance with the sun squarely behind him, faces his guests and lets loose with a medley of bagpipe tunes which can be heard all the way to the lower dome, kilometres away, and yet does not seem too loud in this setting, even when one is up close. The pipes were made for wide open spaces.

Shooting into the sun gives you lots of lens flare and the outline of a piper against the sky, which is one dramatic way to mark the event.

Another is achieved by popular request as Jackson moves to where he is lit by the circling sun and blows a few verses of "Amazing Grace" into the evening air.

"Amazing Grace", indeed.

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Sunshine Smiles on Afternoon Tea

by Dan Davidson


The lawn at the Commissioners‚ Residence was once again the site of the annual tea and territorial birthday party on June 14. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Commissioner's Tea is an annual example of how a number of local organizations can come together to make something work. Originally begun by the IODE and the McDonald Lodge, it is now co-hosted by Parks Canada and staged with the help of many local volunteers.

For the Parks Canada's Dawson Historic Complex , which owns and operates the Commissioner's Residence, this activity seems to be a natural fit with its mandate.

No surprise then that Park's guide Johnny Nunan would be the master of ceremonies for the tea, which can be said to mark the beginning of summer in the Klondike, much as the Gold Show in May is a marker for the mining industry.

"Many people think of the Tea as a harbinger of the vitality of the season," said Parks Superintendent Paula Hassard. "Wearing historic costumes and recreating the past is a great way to make history come alive."

Hassard pointed out the strong role that locals have had over the years in inspiring the Dawson look that is celebrated by so many visitors each year.

"When local residents care enough and when they bring passion and commitment to the presentation or preservation of their community, they play a major role in insuring that Canada's heritage will survive intact into the future."

Hassard credited a number of other organizations as well, including the Yukon Territorial Government, the YTG Tourism Department, the Tr'ond"k Hw"ch'in, the Klondike Visitors Association, the City of Dawson, the Dawson Museum, Canada Post and the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

IODE President Jan Couture gave a short history of her organization, welcomed all the visitors, and thanked the volunteers.

Commissioner Jack Cable welcomed his guests, the Italian and French Consuls and their spouses. A couple of former commissioners - Jim Smith and Ken McKinnon - were also there, along with most of the members of the territorial cabinet.

The Commissioner provided his guests with a short history of northern settlement and exploration in this region, from the Tr'ond"k Hw"ch'in to the settlement following the Gold Rush, which led directly to the formation of the Yukon Territory.

"The Yukon Act created the Yukon Territory on June 13, 1898," Cable said, "and that's what we're here today to celebrate."

Cable noted that the cabinet had recently been in Mayo celebrating that town's centennial, just as it had celebrated Dawson's here five years earlier."

Cable also announced that the Commissioner's Ball would be returning next year, after a few years of picnics and barbecues have given the concept a rest. Former Commissioner Jim Smith created the ball 30 years ago, Cable said.

Cable called for a round of applause to thank the KVA, the IODE and Parks for "a top notch piece of work" for Commissioner's Day.

"When I first came to the Yukon about 33 years ago I came to Dawson on the legal aid circuit," Cable recalled. "At that time there was a bit of the faded glory of the past. Dawson had been called, I'm told, the 'Paris of the North', but there wasn't much evidence of it at that time.

"There has been a lot of work done in the last 30 years by Parks Canada, by the KVA, by the municipal officials and by the territorial government. My thanks to all of those people. They have created what I think is one of Canada's more preeminent tourist destinations."

Other activities included an afternoon of games on the dyke, followed by the rechristening of the Yukon Rose and an evening Barbecue. In a act of extreme faith, KVA organizers had forgone the security of a tent for this year. The morning started off grey, but blossomed into sunshine and remained fine until late in the evening when all the activities had ended. At that point it rained buckets and left the town with the blessing of an incredible double rainbow.

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Commissioner's Awards Handed Out in Dawson

by Dan Davidson


MLA Peter Jenkins and Commissioner Jack Cable flank author Dick North as he received his award. Photo by Dan Davidson

Two Commissioners' Awards and a Queen's Jubilee Medal were presented to two Dawsonites and a former resident at the Commissioner's Tea on June 14.

Dick North is sort of an honorary Dawson resident. He's been in and out of the place many times over the last 40 years. He was instrumental in authenticating the discovery of the cabin in which Jack London lived during his brief stay in the Yukon, and his personal collection of London memorabilia forms the core of the display at the Jack London Centre, which is located beside the little log cabin on 8th Avenue.

During his introduction MLA Peter Jenkins praised North for having recognized the importance that Jack London could have for Dawson as well as for his writings on the Mad Trapper and other Yukon topics.

"The plaque reads, 'In recognition of his contribution to the Yukon's history and the economic life of the City of Dawson' - Dick North."

North is characteristically soft spoken when not discussing his obsessions, but he did manage a few words at the microphone, during which he made it clear that he feels he was simply the front man for work that was contributed to by lots of other people.

"There were so many people," North said, "the Burian family, Joe Henry, the native people, the KVA. Commissioner Smith, the Port Authority of Oakland, Roy Minter, who put up the funds to go search for the cabin ... back in 1964. It was a team effort from the very beginning.

"I can just take a little credit for it. The credit goes to Yukoners in general."

The second award went to Dawsonite resident Barb Hanulik, renowned locally for helping whenever she can.

"Any time we ask her for help for anything in town, she's there for us," said Lynne MacKenzie, introducing Barb to those present. "She's full of energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all the time. And she keeps on helping year after year.

"Some of the organizations she's helping, it's been 30 years she's been helping them, and she never thinks she's done anything special. She is special. She's got a very big heart, and she helps people she doesn't even know."

MacKenzie read a bit of the nomination letter that Mayor Glen Everitt wrote on behalf of the town council.

"Barb, as she prefers to be called," Everitt wrote, "has been a very active member volunteer within our community for many, many years. The volunteer hours that she continues to perform are out of the goodness of her heart and from her strong community spirit. This dedication deserves to be recognized with such a distinctive award."

The final presentation at the Tea was a Queen's Jubilee medal given to Debbie Wortley, who lived in Dawson for a number of years and had expressed a wish to have the award presented here.

Wortley, who is a sylvaculturalist with the Yukon government, said she assumed she had been nominated because of her work in tree planting and reforestation. She said that getting the award here was like coming home.

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The Commissioner Steaks the Dyke

by Anne Tyrrell


The BBQ was held on the dyke this year. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

After a few days to recover Harmony Hunter, Special Events Coordinator for the Klondike Visitors Association, was able to reflect on another successful year of Commissioner's Day events.

On Saturday, June 14, 2003 the KVA hosted the second family carnival during the day "We just wanted something for the kids and families to do before the barbeque started," she said.

Families and children found a variety of things to keep them at the gazebo. Andrea Mansell was painting faces and giving out balloons. Gary Hobbins was organizing games. Mitchell Strid was helping older kids' with games of paint ball. And for those who were hungry after all that, the Women's Shelter was selling pies and desserts.

"At one point I looked over and there was probably 50 kids there," said Harmony.

After 6 pm Dawsonites and visitors were invited to the Commissioner's BBQ on the dyke. Roughly 200 people ventured out on the sunny evening to eat and listen to music.

The Dawson City Fire Department, as their fundraiser, showed their grilling talents by cooking delicious steaks and potatoes with salads. Dinner was topped off with a selection of scrumptious desserts made by the Dawson 4H Club.

While enjoying their dinner or a frothy alcoholic beverage in the beer tent, the crowd was entertained by the ever evolving Lonesome Orchids Show Band (aka the Jaybirds), afterwards the crowd was treated to a set by country singer Hank Karr and finally by some amazing fiddle playing by the Joe Loutchen band.

When asked if there would be a BBQ next year Harmony said, "If there is going to be a (Commissioner's) ball there will be no BBQ. The Commissioner would like a ball and I think people in town would too."

Harmony wanted to make sure that people knew that she was very grateful to anyone who helped, "It is definitely something you can't do alone, I had lots of wonderful help."

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Aboriginal Day Celebrations

Story by Anne Tyrrell


Aboriginal Day celebrations were held outside the Danoja Zho Cultural Centre. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

Aboriginal Day Celebrations took place on June 21, 2003, at the D?noj? Zho Cultural Centre This year's celebrations brought in over 300 visitors from different communities and many elders.

According to Freda Roberts the history behind National Aboriginal Day is, "D?noja (long ago) all my people would come together to renew family ties and to share tradition and heritage. There would also be a time of much celebration and laughter and for many generations our people would celebrate their unique culture and heritage on or near this day, June 21, the longest day of the year that is also summer solstice."

Freda continued to explain, "National Aboriginal Day is also time for all Canadians to recognize the diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit & MÈtis peoples."

She said, "June 21 is the longest day and that gives us a day to come together to celebrate, a day to remember our past leaders, chiefs, councils, their hard work, endurance, sacrifices and self determination that they left for us to carry on, plus the present chiefs and council, and up coming future leaders, namely our youth."

The day opened with free tours of the culture centre. The crowd was entertained by some bagpipe playing before the official start of the celebrations. Then at 1pm the traditional TH singers led emcee Georgette McLeod and dancers in some traditional songs. Afterward Georgette, accompanied on stage by Percy Henry, welcomed everyone and thanked past chief and councils. Chief Darren Taylor, who had driven half the night to be in Dawson for the celebrations, also welcomed the visitors.

For three hours the community was welcomed to jig and listen to the music by Trimble, Gilbert and Willy Gordon assisted by Edward Roberts. There was kid's face painting, a sweet table, run by the Womens' Shelter, and traditional games with Charles Eshelman. The close the evening there was a well attended BBQ run by the Percy DeWolfe Committee.

"Special thanks go out to Chief Darren Taylor for driving half the night prior to Aboriginal Day," said Freda, "and a big thanks to our emcee Geogette McLeod and to the elders that came up and gave speeches. Also a big, big thanks to the traditional TH singers."

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AGM of the Dawson City Arts Society

by Palma Berger

The Annual General meeting of the Dawson City Arts society revealed new initiatives and how older ideas have been consolidated and are operating well. This was expressed in the opening remarks of Executive/director, Gary parker when he said, "In the past 12 months, DCAS, through its operating arm, the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, has achieved exceptional success. In a world of restraints, cutbacks, and diminishing public service, we have made remarkable advances. We have established credibility and influence that extend well beyond the borders of the Klondike."

He continued, "The Odd Fellows Hall campus was a huge step. The full-time transferable, fine arts program in a renovated 'Old Liquor Store' campus will be a momentous Step Two".

He admits the financial support comes mainly from governments in different forms, although private sponsorship has been a great booster. That and the healthy volunteer corps, grass roots involvement, new creative energy and the dedicated and specialized competencies of the paid employees and a network of professional relationships have always ensured KIAC's success.

He did give individual Thank Yous to our Mayor and each city councilor, our M.L.A. and the recently elected Yukon Party. The last mentioned has caught the vision of KIAC and has been supportive.

Parker did use his wondrous way with words to put the rest of his Thank Yous to a Thank You song a la Alanis Morissette. But that wasn't the entertainment of the evening, that was to come later.

To facilitate the changes needed to the "Old Liquor Store" (or, as maybe it will be called - "The Teacherage") a building committee made up of Greg Hakonson, Ron Bramadat and Mike Fraser has been struck. Hakonson has drawn up plans for the building and they were on display at the meeting. The rooms were well laid out, and upstairs is to be a deck leading out from the library. Coming up through the hole in the deck will be a tree that will be growing down from down below.

Sharon Edmunds reported on her project which is the organizing of artists to each paint a section of a large jig-saw. Each piece of the jig-saw will represent a donation from somebody of 25,000. When the jig-saw is complete, that is when each piece has a donor, it will mean KIAC will have donations totaling $2Million. The participating artists have been from Austria, Holland, U.S. Canada and local of course. There have been some really creative pieces, and the resulting theme, not yet disclosed to a soul, should be very interesting.

John Steins, creator of KIAC's web-page, reported that several artist members have taken advantage of the offer of a free web-site. Artists such as Joyce Majinsky, Rosemary Piper, Gordon Kerr.

The entertainment for the evening was different from last year's. Last year Gwen Bell and Father Tim Coonen played a duet on the Beckstein piano from the Palace Grand, that is 'boarded' at the Oddfellows' Hall. This year there was a short film, "Staking Claims", created by Jeremy Roht, Maureen Abbott and Andrea McCrae, from the film making course earlier this year. As the actors were well known locals, it was well received.

A representative from Tr'ond"k Hwech'in is to be on the Board, to ensure good back and forth communication and sharing of ideas. For this purpose, a special Motion to change the constitution and by-laws of DCAS to create a permanent full board position for a representative from Tr'ond"k Hwech'in, was formulated. Members of DCAS will have a meeting on July 12th to review changes to the constitution and bylaws and to vote on the special resolution.

The 2004 calendar with art work by DCAS members was presented by the organizer of this project, Gwen Bell. It looks great and is being offered for sale at Max's as well as at KIAC.

Finally the election of the new board members took place. The current Board members are now, Greg Hakonson, John Steins, Palma Berger, Janice Cliff, Lue Maxwell, Paul Henderson, Karen Dubois, Mike Yuhasz, Maureen Abbott, and the representative from Tr'ond"k Hw"ch'in will be Freda Roberts.

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Taking the Rose to the Water

by Dan Davidson


The Yukon Rose seemed poised to hit the water on June 14, but the loader moving her about wasn't up to the chore of pulling her out again, and Mark Johnston didn't want her ending up down at Eagle. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Yukon Rose was almost reintroduced to the Yukon River on June 14. In fact, most of the pomp and ceremony - except for the actual wetting of the repaired and repainted hull - did take place, though the timing was more than a little off.

Mark Johnston, the latest owner of the Yukon Rose, was invited to combine his launching with events taking place on Commissioner's Day in Dawson, and so he explained a bit of the boat's history to a good sized crowd on the lawn of the Residence.

The Yukon Rose was lifted from her berth of many years beside the McCready home on 3rd Avenue on April 2, 2001, and has since then been in dry dock at the American Highland yard undergoing a refit which has taken Johnston all over North America in search of the proper woods, parts and engine bits needed to put the boat back into service.

The Rose that was moved back to the waterfront on June 14 was not a boat that was ready to go into the water and do anything. The interior was still awaiting its refit and there was as yet no engine. The intent of the day was to get it wet and see how the work that has been done responded.

"We fully expect that it will leak like the proverbial sieve," Johnston told his audience. "That is expected and will be taken care of.

"As you can imagine, it's dried out quite a bit."

Something of an understatement. The Rose, put into service as a barge pusher in the late 1920's, has seen lots of nautical miles in its day. It's seen a lot of work. It sat idle on 3rd Avenue for so long that its keel had molded itself into the ground. It had, in the words of the song, seen "fire and rain" quite a few parties and a number of weddings. The fire part had come close to ending its story more than once.

Johnston's aim is to put it into service as a tour boat, operating between Dawson and Whitehorse.

"It will, in the fullness of time. accompany canoe groups up and down the river."

This will add a new chapter to its long and busy history. The boat, said Johnston, is about 75 years old, and was involved in a lot of the territory's economic history.

"It was there in the 1920's pushing a barge full of gold miners and equipment up and down the river ... for the Taylor and Drury Company, which commissioned the boat in 1929."

The shallow draft vessel with the then experimental drive design could go up creeks and into places where the paddle wheelers could not.

"They went to Ross River, Pelly Banks, Mayo and Old Crow, to all sorts of places where the bigger steamers wouldn't go."

The bottom of this 60 foot long boat is only 14 inches below water level and the tunnel drive with its 28 inch propeller is above the bottom of the boat.

"It is essentially the world's first jet boat," said Johnston.

The afternoon's celebrations included a march down to the ferry launching site, the walking group led by piper Bill Jackson. The boat arrived in two parts and, after some juggling, the wheelhouse was attached to the superstructure.

After Johnston's expanded retelling of the boat's history Father Tim Coonen was prevailed upon to rededicate the craft and Lyle Massey, a member of the crowd, had earlier won a contest entitling him to smash a bottle of champagne against the prow.

But the Yukon Rose could not go into the water after all that day. There were two reasons. The first, an obvious one, is that it had no engine as yet. The second was that the loader which maneuvered the boat around the landing area was not powerful enough to insert the boat and its metal trailer into the swift current of the Yukon River, hold them in place as an anchor, and then pull them back out.

Johnston estimates it will be about two months until the Rose is river worthy, at which time there will be another ceremony to mark that event.

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No Gold Gallery Aims for a Different Sort of Glitter

by Anne Tyrrell

If you were walking down the board walk on Front Street during the winter you would have seen brown paper up on the windows of the old River West store. The newest store in town, No Gold Gallery, is managed by Tammi Wallace and the idea for store name came from owner Chris Sorg.

"The concept was just that we would be the shop in town that didn't sell gold," says Tammi with a chuckle.

What sets the No Gold apart from the many other gift shops in town?

Tammi said, "We consider it a gallery and not a gift shop. We are (handling) exclusively Yukon products so you have to be living in the Yukon to have your wares in this store. We are exclusively for Yukon artists to show their wares and to promote the Yukon's artisans."

Tammi is open to anyone coming in and showing her their work, but she mentioned again, "You have to be living in the Yukon to have your work here. I can't say it is always going to fit in here but 90% of the stuff I have seen so far we have taken, and it is our first year, so we are open to whatever you've got at this point." All of the work at the No Gold has been bought outright from the artists before being sold in the gallery.

The Gallery will be open daily 9 am - 7pm till September 15 and then sporadically through the winter for special events like Christmas time and for Trek Over The Top.

Tammi is hoping to partner with the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) and get some Yukoner shows throughout the winter so they can sell their wares as well as having art shows at the Odd Gallery.

"We are going to be the other half, the retail half of KIAC, so people can make money. The daycare is going to do a gallery opening here and I would like to get some locals to do an opening too, to keep the momentum going through the winter and to find more Yukon artisans."

The No Gold Gallery would like to be a successful business in a community that has an abundance of talent. No Gold hopes to be one of the businesses in town that lets artists show what they have to give to tourists. Tammi would also to like to work a little closer with KIAC and support the arts community around town.

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Yukon as Exotic as Africa to Southern Kids, Says Berton House Writer

by Dan Davidson


Jan Thornhill recently ended her three-month stay at Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

There was no doubt in Jan Thornhill's mind about the worth of her stay at Berton House as the Ontario writer drew near the end of her time in late May.

"Berton House has been fabulous. I never want to leave. If I didn't have obligations (in Ontario) then I would stay."

Really, the only difficult thing about her residency in Dawson was the length of time she had to be away from her husband - three months.

"I've been married for 20 years and I've not been away from him this long before."

He had been going to make the trip, but circumstances intervened. A couple of her other relatives did manage a brief visit and the house passed muster nicely.

"The house itself is incredibly comfortable - warm and cozy," Thornhill said, though she admitted that it took a while to get used to the movement of the building as March moved into April and May and the foundation shifted the alignment of doors and windows. She hasn't experienced a lot of this in the farmhouse where she usually lives.

As for the town and its people, she was charmed from the beginning.

"I've felt very safe here and unthreatened. I've talked to a ridiculous number of people and learned how to remember names, which I've never really been good at."

You can get by without that skill in a big city, but not in a small town where you are likely to meet than person again.

"I'm glad I didn't get the summer," she said. "I think it would be a lot harder to meet the locals. When I arrived in March a lot of people would come up to me and say 'Who are you and what are you doing in our town and would you like a beer?' I stood out like a sore thumb. That wouldn't happen in the summer so much."

The other advantage of the spring session was that Jan is a birder. She found the variety of birds around Dawson and especially up the Dempster Highway to be a real treat. She was also startled to find that a species she knew was already nesting in the Yukon during the same week that it crosses Ontario.

"This is thousands of miles further away from where they winter.

"I've now seen up to 25 birds that I've never seen before," she said, pulling her checklist out of her bird book, "and most of these are what birders would call 'driving birds', by which I mean that people would be prepared to drive a good distance for a chance to see them."

As far as being a writer's residence, Jan turned in an enthusiastic evaluation on the home: "It's a great place to work.

"I expected to get somewhat more work done than I did, but that's all right. I wasn't distracted by writer's block but by fascinating people to meet and places to go and things to see.

"I've been wandering down the highway and over rock piles regularly going for two and three hour walks, feeling healthy and quite relaxed."

She's driven the Top of the World Highway into Alaska, hiked to Moosehide and back, made several trips up the Dempster Highway with public librarian Anne Saunders.

She figures all this will percolate through into her work later on.

One thing she's decided is to set aside the children's book she was going to do next for a bit and put some energy into something on bird migration.

One potential children's book may be an adaptation of Anderson's "The Ugly Duckling", using northern wilderness setting instead of the usual European farm yard. Travelling on the Dempster has given her a lot of ideas.

"There isn't enough awareness in the south of the north," Thornhill reflected. "There just isn't. Unless people have actually been - not done a quick visit, but actually stayed for a while to see what sort of things people do for a living.

"It's as exotic as the African savanna to kids. They think of polar bears, or the tundra or the dark winter and the light summer. It's this sort of mythical thing. I don't think there's enough school curriculum on the North."

She a little bit caught up in the myth herself though.

"I still want to do a winter in the north. I think it's a necessary exercise that all Canadians should do. I'd like to do that darkness thing."

Her other project is the novel she came to Dawson to work on. This deals with the life of an infant survivor of a shipwreck who eventually makes her way to the Yukon.

"After 125 pages she's just three years old, so I've got to get 77 more years of her life in there," she said with a chuckle.

The child is about to spend a few weeks in the care of wild dogs in New York City before being found by people who raise her, so that will provide her with a sort of affinity for the wild.

"She should fit in well in Dawson, there being so many dogs here - and mushers."

Researching information about this area is quite simple, she said, as long as you follow one simple rule.

"Be prepared to get out of the house. Take in the local events and meet people. They will be able to tell you who the people in Dawson are that you should meet.

'It's quite easy, in a small community like this, if you have some specific question about something, to find someone who can tell you about it and is quite willing to."

As a visual artist as well as a writer, Jan was prepared to take a lot of the north back with her. She came to Dawson equipped with a new digital camera and an iBook computer. It took her a while to adjust to just clicking whatever struck her fancy and then deciding what to keep later, but she loved the freedom it gave her to take as many close-ups of lichens as she wanted.

Normally an early riser and morning worker, she did find that the Klondike made her change her sleep and work patterns as her stay wore on. It was just too tempting to enjoy the long evenings.

"I got here in March when (the light) wasn't that far off what Ontario had. Watching the light change by about 6 minutes a day is totally engrossing.

"It's going to seem really dark in Ontario."

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Boardwalks and Roadwork Improve Dawson Streets

by Dan Davidson

Dawson's council is very pleased with the work being done on the town's boardwalks this year. According to city manager Scott Coulson it's the first replacement of board walks to be undertaken in several years. Those who walk them regularly will find the new sections a real treat. While our tourists may find our boardwalks rustic and charming, it's no secret to locals that "rustic" is just a few steps from "decrepit" in some parts of town.

The new boardwalks are very sturdy, with none of the trampoline bouncing effect which afflicts some of the older sections. In addition, the contractor has returned to the practice of ramping the intersections, sloping the boardwalk down to the street level to facilitate handicapped access.

"The sidewalks look great," said Councillor Byrun Shandler at the June 10 meeting.

Mayor Everitt indicated that the town had budgeted $40,000 to replace 2,000 feet of boardwalk this summer. Coulson said it had been a few years since there had been money in the budget for this item, but that he hoped to keep it as a line item from here on, replacing a similar amount each year.

Public works superintendent Norm Carlson said it has actually been some 6 or 7 years since the last major replacement of boardwalks, though a few crisis spots had been handled in that time. Dawson's permafrost is hard on boardwalks. The underlying gravels sink and heave with the seasons, and what starts out straight and even becomes angled and distorted in just a few years. CnD Landscapes has the contract for this year's project.

There will be new surfacing material on the downtown core streets of Dawson this fall, with the project beginning in late August. This was announced earlier, but council has decided that closing off streets in the middle of the summer would be a bad idea, so the date for the project has been pushed into the shoulder season.

The new gravel was tested in front of the museum last summer and it appeared not only to generate less dust, but also less mud and fewer washout potholes.

Coulson says the material for the surfacing project is actually being donated to the town by a local mining concern which has so far remained unnamed.

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Everitt Favours Bridge

by Dan Davidson


West Dawson traffic arrives in Dawson. Photo by Dan Davidson

Mayor Glen Everitt wants it to be very clear that he is not opposed to the construction of a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City.

On the other hand, Association of Yukon Communities President Glen Everitt doesn't support spending all the federal infrastructure money coming to the Yukon to build one.

The difference has to do with which hat Everitt is wearing at the time that the topic comes up.

"For clarification," Everitt told council on June 10, "as much as the members of the government of Yukon would like to hear me say I'm opposed so that they maybe had an out to a promise that was made, I am in support of the bridge; I have always indicated full support of a bridge across the Yukon River."

Indeed, the only member of Dawson's council to publicly (and repeatedly) oppose bridge construction is Byrun Shandler.

As AYC president, however, Everitt had to support the decisions of that organization as expressed at the annual general meeting in Mayo in late May. During the discussions about possible uses for the $20 million infrastructure fund the membership was pretty clear on its position.

"There is no appetite within that AGM by all member communities to see all that money go to a bridge in Dawson. That was the statement that was made and it's one that I stand by," Everitt said.

He says he knew he'd regret it.

"I knew it would come back to bite me," he told council. "The media pinched it off as being opposition to a bridge without going into full detail as to what the topic of discussion was."

One of the problems with the federal funding as it has been offered is that it can only go for large projects. AYC members wanted to be able to bundle smaller projects together in order to make up the total. Without bundling only projects the size of the bridge, the Whitehorse water filtration proposal or highway upgrading are likely to be eligible for consideration.

There is, Everitt said, some hope that a second infrastructure program, a $1 billion amount recently announced by Finance Minister John Manley at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting, and reaffirmed to AYC by Secretary of State Andy Mitchell, will contain funds specifically aimed at rural and northern Canada.

AYC has assembled a proposal for $198 million dollars worth of one time infrastructure funding to bring the territory up to par with rest of the country. There is something for every community in that proposal, and Dawson's part of it contains a bridge.

"The bridge is on the agenda in that discussion," said Everitt said, who will, as chair of FCM's Northern Forum, be presenting that proposal to the federal finance committee.

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Sewage Solution Is Out of Reach

by Dan Davidson

The City of Dawson now has a water licence for the first time in half a decade. The Yukon Territory Water Board submitted the document to the territorial government recently and it became the first municipal licence to be signed by Premier Dennis Fentie.

That does not mean that the town's water & sewer discharge problems are over. Indeed, they may just be beginning a new phase, one triggered by the latest joint review by YTG and the town. The conclusion from this review, as presented at the May 6 council meeting, is that the construction and implementation of a secondary sewage treatment plant in the Klondike capital could cost close to $17 million dollars.

This is a project which engineers had originally pegged at between $4 an $5 million as recently as five years ago. This was the basis on which the council negotiated a hefty capital funding agreement twice - once with the former NDP government and again with the Liberal government which succeeded it.

Later, the projected costs rose to about double the original estimates, but the town wasn't too concerned. The last two councils have accepted the inevitability of having to build the plant and have been trying to figure out how, while also coping with three other major infrastructure projects: the relocation of city hall, and the building of a new swimming pool and new recreation complex.

"Nobody's actually sat down and put all costs together," Mayor Glen Everitt said during the meeting. "With everything, not just the plant building itself, it's an additional 7 to 8 million dollars. So you are in the range of between 16 and 17 million dollars."

That's regardless of the type of facility that is built. In fact, according to councillor Byrun Shandler, who sits on the town's project management team along with city staff and YTG advisors, that estimate is for the cheapest possible outcome.

"Other treatment options are more money, one of which is $4.9 million more," Shandler said.

When it became clear that things were heading in this direction, the town undertook another study of the available options for treatment with the assistance of YTG.

It turns out that the sequencing batch reactor system that the town has been planning for, a choice seconded by an independent study commissioned last year by YTG, is still the cheapest, most effective system for the money. But the total cost is $16.6 million.

"What has happened," said Everitt, "is that all was ever provided to the city, even going back to the 1990 reports, was just the plant, dropped into town. Nobody went through the process of identifying all the other costs related to any type of a facility, and that's what the increases are."

"Alarmed but not surprised" was the way Everitt described the council and PMT reaction to the report.

"We are working very closely with YTG in regards to this issue and there has already been a meeting in Ottawa about this."

Discussions have included costs of construction as well as operation. If the report is accurate, then Dawson residents, already facing the highest water utility bills in the territory, could be looking at an increase to as high as $3000 a year after subsidies.

The irony of it all is that some members of earlier councils some 7 or 8 years ago stated at that time that the construction bill might be $15 million and the annual rates $3,000. They were laughed off by the experts, but it turns out they were close.

This is all bad news at a time when both the Water Board and the court's judgment on the Department of Fisheries charges have given the town a little more than a year (September 2004) to get a treatment plant built and running.

Both judgments were based on the data that was available at the time, when the costs appeared to be half of what they may actually be, so council expects to be going back to both parties with this new information.

This also changes the amount of money the town will have to spend on the construction end. Until this, the $1.1 million that the town has already put into this project was pretty much equal to the 10% of costs that it had to cover. The rest had to come from the territory.

That's a problem for the Fentie government. Shandler doubts strongly that the YTG has a discretionary $15 million hanging about that it can put into this project - certainly not in the next 14 months. Even the finding that had been available to the town had been apportioned to arrive over a two year period.

The total costs, said Shandler, are now at the level that council has feared all along they might reach.

"There's no possible way we can afford to do that," he said, "and YTG has also agreed that no household can afford to pay $2500 to $3000 a year."

"Also," added Everitt, "there's just no way we are going to be given $16 million dollars."

The money's not available from the feds either, as Everitt learned in no uncertain terms when he was in Ottawa for meetings of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently.

So, judge's rulings and water licence stipulations can say what they will, but the solution to Dawson's sewage problems is still farther off than anyone would like to see.

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YTG Letter on Municipal Issues Called "Hooey"

by Dan Davidson

Employees at YTG's Property Management HQ and the territorial Liquor Store may arrive at work on July 16 to find the street being excavated in front of their buildings as the City of Dawson moves to shut off their water.

This move, threatened originally in early April, was strongly advocated by council at its June 26 meeting after discussing the fact that no progress has been made toward resolving the problem of rural landfill charges since a follow-up warning, with its July 15 deadline, was issued.

"We get the back hoe started up on July 16 and we start digging," said councillor Byrun Shandler.

The trigger for this level of response was the Yukon Party government's latest response to a list of issues that have been on the table for a long time. The letter from Deputy Minister of Community Services Marc Tremblay was actually addressed to Mayor Glen Everitt in his capacity as president of the Association of Yukon Communities.

While its opening billed it as an "update on matters we discussed on November 19, 2002 (this is a letter dated May 20, 2003) it turned out to be basically a list of the issues which are unresolved in more than one community, though some of them are specific to Dawson.

The issues included Insurance problems( identified as a major problem at the AYC's annual general meeting), Land Transfers within municipal boundaries, Revenue Sharing of Fuel Taxes and the future of the Comprehensive Municipal Grant, Security of Funding for municipalities (with 3 year's notice of planned reductions), extension of Emergency 911 service, funding for peripheral services and humane societies.

"This is really bad," said councillor Wayne Potoroka. "This doesn't even address the City of Dawson's or the AYC's issues. This is like hooey. I can't believe that after all this time the best suggestion they can come up with is to meet and talk about it?"

One of the sections of the letter dealt with what Tremblay called "peripheral services", defined as "the issue of residents living outside of municipal boundaries but relying on municipal services such as the landfill."

In Dawson the landfill is near Quigley Gulch, and YTG's portion of the maintenance bill, which has accumulated over more than five years, is between forty and sixty thousand dollars, depending on how you calculate it and how certain properties are included. This is one of the largest sums on the town's accounts receivable books, and has been accumulating for so long that the town's independent auditors recently suggested it should be written off as a bad debt.

"This is the list," said Mayor Everitt, waving the letter, " of things that were left undone by the previous Liberal government.

"As AYC president I was very discouraged to receive, on May 28, a letter responding to matters which had been on the table for years and discussed at numerous meetings in Whitehorse and which says 'let's talk more.'"

"They crucified the Liberals," said Shandler, "over the lack of response to these issues. I mean, they pounded away at them during the campaign and they made commitments."

As AYC president Everitt will be calling an executive meeting of that body to discuss the Tremblay letter.

As mayor of Dawson, he has been instructed by his council to break out the back hoe and turn off the taps in 19 days.

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