Signs of sex, sin and culture

Promoting sex toys over culture on Yukon’s major highway sends the wrong signals to tourists, says a local businessman.

Promoting sex toys over culture on Yukon’s major highway sends the wrong signals to tourists, says a local businessman.

That is: don’t think about Yukon history, visit Whitehorse and pleasure yourself, said Bill Barnie.

Barnie is challenging the current crop of signs along the Alaska Highway in Whitehorse, particularly one promoting the territory’s only adult store.

“We don’t have a sign for one of the premier attractions in Yukon, the SS Klondike, and now we have a sign on the highway for the Adult Warehouse,” said Barnie in a recent interview.

“Maybe the odd person coming up the highway is looking for a dildo.

“Maybe they’ve travelled thousands and thousands of miles to find it and, oh, what do you know, they’ve found it in Whitehorse.”

Obviously there’s not much in the way of signage standards, said Barnie.

The Adult Warehouse isn’t paying much attention to Barnie’s concerns, said Richard Rupert, the store’s owner.

The adult store is a business like any other with the same rights to highway signage, said Rupert.

If Barnie wants to see an SS Klondike sign, he should call Parks Canada, the organization that owns the attraction, and encourage it to buy one like everyone else, he said.

Besides, the Adult Warehouse has its own signage issues, issues that may, or may not, be the reason Parks Canada has opted out of a highway sign — cost.

The 1.2-metre by 2.4-metre highway signs cost money, about $300 to $600 to make. And there’s an additional $400 annual fee to rent the space between the uprights.

But that’s not the problem.

The problem is, if you want to make changes to the sign you kind of get fleeced, said Rupert.

“If you want to change something on it, it costs you $300 to have it taken down,” said Rupert.

“Then you pay whatever it costs to get your sign changed, and then you have to pay $300 to have it put back up again.

“What the guy does for his $600 is take the sign out and then put it up.”

Rupert is hoping a new arrangement next year between the Yukon government and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce will change things.

Currently Highways is responsible for erecting business signs. Next year, the chamber will be.

But there are a variety of highway signs, and different departments are responsible for each type.

Currently, the Highways department is responsible for directional signs in highway right of ways.

Interpretive signs, like the ones on the highway pullouts, are the responsibility of the Tourism department.

Signs that warn motorists of wildlife crossings, or point out animal viewing areas, fall under the jurisdiction of the Environment department.

The three departments have a committee that meets about four times a year to discuss signs, according to government officials.

Under the current model, business owners approach the chamber of commerce to rent a sign vacancy between the wooden posts built along the highways outside Whitehorse.

Next year, as the old highway billboards are taken down, the chamber will take over responsibility for installation and replacement of the new signs.

So, while the $25 registration fee, sign costs and the $400 rental fee will remain unchanged, the $600 fee to have a sign moved or fixed will probably be lowered.

“At this time, because of a contract that YTG has with the person who puts the sign in and takes them down, there is a $300 fee,” said Karp.

“It’s $300 to take it down, and $300 to put it back. That’s what the government has negotiated. That’s the contract.

“That’s very expensive. In the new year the chamber is taking over that process as well. We’ll then be renegotiating the contract.”

Rick Collett, of Collett Contracting, doesn’t think the $300 fee is pricey.

He submitted the low bid to Highways about 18 months ago.

“Nobody works for nothing,” said Collett.

“That’s cheap, you should have seen what the other guy bid; he was, like, double.”

There’s more to moving signs than you might think, he said.

“You’ve got to drill holes and store it. You’ve got to have a ladder and go through snow.

“It takes two guys, and some of those signs are near the edge of town.”

Replacing signs can be expensive, but it doesn’t always cost the business money to fix them, said Karp.

In the event of an accident, signs will be replaced using the rental money.

The business is responsible if an individual sign is vandalized, said Karp.

Any business or government organization can apply for a sign, said Karp.

There are already about 90 organizations on board, with some businesses buying signs in both directions.

Next year, as the old signs come down, more new signs will go up, bringing the total to about 150, said Karp.

Parks Canada is looking into a sign, said Bob Lewis, superintendent for the S.S. Klondike.

Parks officials have from Ottawa to Whitehorse to meet with the Yukon government on the issue.

They hope to have a sign by next summer, Lewis said.