As a born-and-raised Dawsonite I am fully aware of what Parks Canada has and has not done with regards to the preservation and use of our Klondike heritage assets since their arrival in Yukon. Initially they had grand ideas, ideas that were in sync with what Dawson wanted and needed at the time, which was to save the assets and use them as the core for a tourism economy based on our historic gold rush history.
I don’t know what went wrong or why, but the facts speak for themselves. Although local Parks Canada people had a strong passion for the vision, it was long ago set aside at a federal level and every year for at least the last 20 years (and possibly more) it became more obvious they had abandoned the vision completely (and never got a new one).
In fits and starts they tried this and that while continually diminishing their ability to preserve, protect and use our gold rush assets. By the mid-1980s they told me that with regards to Bear Creek, they “were happy to record its demise.” That is a sad and sick situation; they were now looking at many of their “assets” as liabilities.
With this last round of cuts and the closing of Dredge No. 4 I have heard many people ask, “What are they doing, they are closing their No. 1 attraction?” Nailing down a No. 1 attraction is a bit hard to do since Parks has had a number of them; the SS Keno was its No. 1 attraction at one time until it was closed to visitation (now only partially open) and Bear Creek was a No. 1 attraction until they closed it as well.
But it’s not really about No. 1 attractions, it is really about all the sites that where open and interactive that are now closed or underused and all the sites that should have been open but never were. It is all about what “we have,” that is owned by Parks Canada, that we are unable to use to grow our economy or to enjoy. It is all about an owner who has become more and more delinquent with time.
Parks has a huge inventory of heritage assets in Dawson. They never did properly use it to help build the Klondike Gold Rush tourism economy, and they have completely lost the vision and the appetite in maintaining these assets. They are no longer interested, willing or able to preserve, protect and use the Klondike assets in anything close to what they should be doing or to a level that both Dawson and Yukon need.
As such, I would strongly urge the Yukon government to repatriate all Parks Canada’s Klondike holdings, with exception to a very few that they will commit to maintaining and making available, and that Yukoners henceforth assume the responsibility of turning those Parks Canada “liabilities” into Yukon “assets.”