Deadly patch of highway
Open letter to Glenn Hart, minister of Highways and Public Works,
In the past few years, several people have died and been injured on the stretch of the Alaska Highway between Porter Creek and the Kopper King in Whitehorse.
For two years, we have asked the Yukon government to address safety on this stretch of road.
Our suggestion was to lower the speed limit. For some unknown reason the speed limit actually increases here.
The area is on a big curve, often has black ice that is scoured by winds through Rabbit’s Foot Canyon and can be dark due to the height of the surrounding terrain.
The road is narrow and has a number of unexpected, or blind exits.
We have waited patiently as YTG has tried out costly ideas such as blasting new exit lanes and gouging out rumble strips to address the safety issues.
The rumble strips are noisy and people have complained. The noise would be worth it if they actually stopped accidents but they don’t. The new exit lane at Fish Lake Road is just plain confusing.
The Porter Creek Community Association would like to know if YTG is finally willing to try lowering the speed limit on this stretch of road.
The speed limit to the north and south of this area is 70 km-h.
Why does a dangerous stretch of road have a speed limit 20 km-h higher than the surrounding areas?
My 11-year-old son had the insight to say that we could at least put in a centre barrier so that only one car will crash as opposed to hitting another head on.
I would prefer that no car crashes. A few seconds on a daily commute is not worth people’s lives.
Carole Bookless, president, Porter Creek Community Association
Beware red underwear
The Kapital Kickers (Trap Door Society) are no longer running as a non-profit organization. Please refrain from giving donations to anyone dressed in red underwear or trying to represent the organization.
Val Bumstead, secretary treasurer, Kinette Club of Whitehorse
Crackdown was cracked
The News editorial Time for a Crackdown has many valid thoughts, however it misses out on some major issues:
“So far, the bylaw has made the city’s nightlife more inclusive and vibrant.” This sentence really misses the point, unless you consider empty bars vibrant and slow nights more inclusive.
“And there has been little, if any, effect on the local business owners.”
Well, you may have noticed that the very popular Backwater Lounge is no longer in existence, and this has very much to do with the non-smoking bylaw — specifically with the non-enforcement of said bylaw.
We adhered to the new non-smoking bylaw from day one. Besides the fact that I am a non-smoker, I do believe that the time has come to move towards more non-smoking legislation.
However, I strongly disagree with the way the city wanted this new bylaw enforced — and, unfortunately, the courts proved me right.
It is extremely difficult to run a non-smoking lounge right next door to a smoking bar and the revenue numbers show this very clearly: The revenue for the first six months (January to June) in 2005 were down by just over 50 per cent from the previous year.
Six continuous months of consistent losses was enough for me to decide to close the Backwater Lounge at the end of August.
This is a direct result of the botched non-smoking bylaw and I am not pleased by the pathetic way the city has introduced it.
This bylaw has cost me tens of thousands of dollars — and has brought even more revenue to the bars that did not enforce the bylaw.
How is that for a level playing field and for “the city has taken a big step towards improving public health” as you claim in your editorial?
And to believe that the non-smokers are now flocking to the smoke-free bars is wishful thinking. It is not happening!
So, to answer the question “has one bar closed?” in you editorial, the answer is a very loud and clear yes.
I sure hope the city is doing a better job with the new bylaw, the last one has been a joke!
Ed Festel, River View Hotel
Quest tough on dogs
Early Monday morning, I tuned into CBC Radio One’s Yukon Quest Trail Report to hear what was happening in the race.
An immediate sense of foreboding was instilled in me with the news that a total of five Yukon Quest and Quest 300 mushers, and their dog teams, were unaccounted for in a blizzard on Eagle Summit.
In a later news report, when questioned by the CBC reporter, one of the Quest officials, attempting to play down the seriousness of the situation, stated, “this is the Quest, after all,” or something close to that.
After listening to CBC’s noon show race report, the ‘sense of foreboding’ had turned into one of ‘outright horror’ with even more mushers involved, and news of a lost dog team on the mountain by one Quest 300 musher.
It was reported that a young female musher had been sent out into the blizzard, with the blessing of Quest race officials, at 6:30 a.m. (Alaska Time, I assume).
People I talked to that day were moved almost to the point of tears by this possible impending disaster.
The fact that a driverless dog team was out there was especially poignant. It was not until later that evening that I learned that all the mushers and their 88 dogs, including the lone dogs, had been rescued by a United States Air Force helicopter, in conjunction with other US military aircraft.
The next morning, on CBC radio, a Quest race official described Monday as “an interesting day.”
It was not until early Wednesday morning on CBC that I had heard a real expression of appreciation for the heroes of the day (the helicopter crew), who had, at considerable danger to themselves, rescued the mushers and their dogs.
This thank you came from rookie musher, Saul Turner. Previous to that I had not heard any expression of gratitude from Quest officials, and in checking the Quest website Wednesday evening I did not see any message of thanks.
In addition to rescuing the mushers and their dogs, the helicopter crew probably did not realize that it had also saved the reputations of Quest race officials, whose competency had been questioned in the eye of the public (and from some race participants, judging by radio and newspaper reports).
Had it not been for the US military (and a little help from Mother Nature), bodies of mushers and dogs may well have been removed from Eagle Summit, a point that does not seem to have registered with Yukon Quest officials.
As early as Tuesday, from the lack of public comment about this disturbing event from Quest spokesmen, you would never have known that the previous day’s sense of crisis had ever existed.
Had this happened in Canada, with the deplorable state of our military, the likelihood of a successful rescue operation would have been remote.
As an observer of the Yukon Quest, it has always been apparent to me that Quest mushers gamble with the lives of their dogs.
We can now add to that the Quest race organizers gambling with the lives of the mushers themselves.
The sad thing about the mushers setting out into dangerous weather conditions from the Mile 101 checkpoint, is that, had the weather been -50?C, the Quest would still have allowed mushers (and their blindly trusting dogs) to set out (or have possibly encouraged th have possibly encouraged them to do so), as there is no policy to cancel or postpone the race on account of weather.
Another sad comment is that I would not put it past Quest officials to capitalize on this near-disaster for promotional reasons.
I had planned to launch a website, SleddogWatchdog.com (which, although not exclusively dedicated to shedding light on the many negative aspects of the Yukon Quest, contains a considerable amount of material in this regard), prior to the Dawson City weekend Quest layover, in order to give race fans and officials some ‘reading material’ while they are there.
I have temporarily delayed the launch out of respect for the seriousness of Monday’s events and the fact that the occurrence may have been somewhat traumatic for those mushers who were rescued, and for those who had made the harrowing journey over Eagle Summit.
I wish the remaining mushers and their dogs safe journeys.
This week’s events confirm to me that the Quest is, indeed, “the toughest sled dog race in the world” — it is especially tough on the dogs, many of whom have died, been injured, or plagued with illness in the running of this race.
As a Yukoner, I would rather have the Yukon Quest change its motto to “the most humane sled dog race in the world,” but, in the race’s current form, that would be an example of false advertising, to say the least.
Furthermore, the chance of the Quest ever being able to lay claim to the preferable motto is small, in a territory where: our territorial tourism department supports the Quest in order to attract visitors to the Yukon; our Education department sanctions the promotion of the race in Yukon classrooms and, where practically no effort is made by politicians of any stripe to improve our territorial animal-protection laws.