Open letter to Premier Dennis Fentie, Mayor Bev Buckway, Chief Mike Smith, and directors of Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club:
I wish to congratulate all the athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers, spectators and sponsors who helped to make the Haywood Ski Nationals such an incredible success on so many fronts this year.
I followed the coverage in the local media over the last week. I also saw a noticeable increase in the number of young, healthy and happy visitors dressed in their colourful racing gear around town.
By all accounts, it seems like everyone involved in organizing, watching or participating in this event had a terrific time.
The Haywood Nationals, which was hosted by the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club, attracted about 400 of Canada’s top junior and senior cross-country skiers. It may have been the biggest event the local club has hosted in years, but it was not the first.
Whitehorse has a long history of hosting national and international ski competitions. This is because the ski trails at Mount McIntyre are considered to be among the finest anywhere in the country.
Not only are these trails technically challenging, but they are also located in a beautiful setting, high above the city, overlooking the Yukon River and the mountains beyond. And the icing on the cake is their accessibility, a mere five-minute drive from the downtown. Incredible!
We are truly blessed to have such an amazing asset right in our own backyard. The trails not only provide exceptional recreational and competitive opportunities for locals and visitors alike, but they also contribute directly, and significantly, to our economy whenever local, national and even international ski competitions are held there.
But there is a dark cloud on the horizon: the ski trails are threatened by creeping development, both residential and industrial. For example, hundreds of mining claims have been staked along these same trails by exploration companies.
Meanwhile, the Yukon government has stood silently by and let this happen. It has failed to show any political leadership by moving to ban staking in this prime recreation area located within the city’s boundary.
This situation cannot be ignored any longer. Legislative action is needed, if we want to make sure this wonderful asset gets the kind of protection it needs for future generations to enjoy.
The city of Whitehorse, in its official community plan, is asking the territorial government to put a moratorium on any more mineral staking within its municipal boundaries. It says this is needed to give certainty and clarity to its land-use planning processes, and I fully agree.
The founders of the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club showed a lot of courage and vision when they recognized the potential of Mount McIntyre as a skiers’ paradise and started carving and grooming the network of trails that would eventually grow to be 75 kilometres long.
And I just hope the political decision-makers of today have the courage and vision to honour the memories of these trailblazers, and sit down and work together to ensure these incredible trails get the formal protection they deserve so we can continue to attract many more great ski events like the Haywood Nationals to our community.
Todd Hardy, MLA