Forty-one additional campsites, including 14 pull-through sites, will officially open at Congdon Creek Campground on July 21. Minister of Environment Nils Clarke will attend the campground for a free barbecue celebration with campers between noon and 3 p.m.
Located east of Destruction Bay along the Alaska Highway, the campground is situated along the western shore of Kluane Lake, known in Southern Tutchone as Łù’àn Män. It is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Whitehorse.
The newly opened campsites are for hard-sided campers, RVs and travel vans only — no tent sites have been added to the campground.
The ‘new’ campsites are set along two road loops and, as it turns out, aren’t so new after all. The 41 campsites are reactivated sites closed more than two decades ago due to lacklustre demand for camping facilities in the area.
“Back in the ’90s, there was much more camping demand out in that area, so we did have four loops and close to 100 sites. But as that demand waned, we eventually closed [two] loops [and] sites were no longer designated for camping,” Scott Cameron, a park planner with Yukon Parks, said.
“And now, of course, with the growing population and increasing demand for camping, it was a good opportunity to go back to a site that we could work really cost-effectively on.”
Work to reclaim the decommissioned campsites began in May and involved the removal of unsafe trees and plants, clearing roads and camping areas, and installing new outhouses, picnic tables and other infrastructure. According to Cameron, the clearing work was a considerable undertaking and saw the involvement of both Yukon Parks staffers and contractors.
Despite the overgrown state of the two old camping loops, Cameron noted that they were still recognizable as campgrounds.
“It almost had the feeling of a ghost campground rather than a ghost town. So, you could tell the roads and the sites were there, but everything was just a little grown over. But you know, it certainly had the feel of a campground, but without all the normal polishes you’d expect,” Cameron said.
According to Cameron, the entire project to reopen the two camp loops came with a price tag of approximately $92,000.
Following the opening of the additional camping spaces, Congdon Creek Campground now boasts a total of 103 campsites. There are 20 designated sites for tent campers, all surrounded by an electric fence to ward off bears.
The campground also boasts bear-proof garbage and recycling bins, food caches, firewood stations, cooking shelters, and accessible outhouses.
During the recent campsite reclamation work, Yukon Parks focused more on ensuring campsites and facilities are accessible to people of all abilities, Cameron told the News.
“There’s certain surfacing requirements and rating requirements and proximity to an accessible outhouse. So that would be some of the value-added and new items we put in as part of this expansion that wouldn’t have been there 23 years ago.”
Yukon Parks staff are also exploring ways to expand upon the recreational offerings at Congdon Creek campground in the future. According to Cameron, a disc golf course, volleyball courts and bike tracks are among the possible activity infrastructure upgrades that could be installed at the campground.
“At this point, we haven’t selected anything. We definitely want to see what people who use Congdon are interested in and what’s suitable for the site.”
Expanding existing campgrounds and potentially opening new campgrounds is a hot political issue in the Yukon. Earlier this year, the opposition Yukon Party and governing Yukon Liberal Party clashed over the lack of progress on a new campground within two hours of Whitehorse. The opposition pointed out that although money for a new campground was in last year’s five-year capital plan, it was no longer on the government’s budget documents.
Leader of the Official Opposition Currie Dixon recently told the News that, while seeing new campsites in the Yukon is great, the expanded camping space at Congdon Creek Campground was “low-hanging fruit” and doesn’t go nearly far enough. He cited the 2020 Yukon Parks Strategy, which called for creating a new 150-site campground within a two-hour drive of Whitehorse.
“The Liberal government promised that they would begin work on a new campground, and as recently as last year, we were told that work was underway. Unfortunately, earlier this year and in the current budget, the Liberal government is now backing away from that promise, and they’ve said that they’re not going to pursue a new campground in the area,” Dixon said.
“Instead, [they’re] going to be focusing on some infill at existing campgrounds, and that’s what we see announced this week.”
In a statement provided to the News, Clarke said that a decision has not yet been made on developing a new campground near Whitehorse and that, in collaboration with Yukon First Nations, the government is “open to all options for a new campground.”
Clarke’s statement added that the current focus is on improving “existing campgrounds and camping experiences across the Yukon” and that additional sites are being added to Wolf Creek campground and Ethel Lake campground this year.
Contact Matthew Bossons at email@example.com