Past, present and future efforts to add another campground to the Yukon form the latest ring for the governing Yukon Liberal Party and opposition Yukon Party to spar in this legislature sitting.
During the March 9 question period, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon grilled the territorial government’s Environment Minister Nils Clarke about whether the construction of a new territorial campground is still in the government’s plans.
Clarke elaborated on plans to add about 20 spaces to Congdon Creek, Wolf Creek and Ethel Lake campgrounds in the coming year. The minister suggested early design work for additions to the campgrounds at Conrad, Little Salmon, Pine, Snafu, Tarfu and Twin Lakes. He said that previous engagement with First Nations indicated that they don’t want more land in their territories to be developed.
A March 9 statement from the Yukon Party circulated to the territory’s media suggests that the government is falling behind in completing the plan for a new campground within two hours of Whitehorse.
“Since the release of the Parks Strategy in 2020, Yukoners have been getting excited at the idea of a new campground in the Yukon,” Yukon Party environment critic Wade Istchenko said in the statement.
“Now, it seems that the minister couldn’t get it done and the Liberal government is looking at the expansion of existing campgrounds. This raises many other concerns around overcrowding, useful or available space, and potential impacts to residents who may be nearby.”
The statement claims that money for work on a new campground was in last year’s five-year capital plan, but that it was no longer on the government’s budget documents.
It also claims that the Yukon’s minister of Environment confirmed in the legislature on March 9 that the government would be looking to expand existing campgrounds rather than delivering with a new one.
A Yukon Liberal Party cabinet representative sent the News a response to the Yukon Party’s statements claiming the opposition has “a lack of understanding of what constitutes a ‘promise’” when it comes to the campgrounds. The Liberal caucus statement says work on improving the Yukon’s system of parks is ongoing and money for campground development is still in the budget.
The government’s 2023-24 five-year financial plan shows $100,000 to $200,000 earmarked for “development of Yukon campgrounds” in the coming fiscal year and $2-3 million the following year.
“Expansion of existing campground infrastructure” is set out as a separate line item with planned expenditures ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 some years to between $1 million and $2 million in others over the next five fiscal years. The previous year’s financial plan has a slightly different budget item for the campgrounds phrased “development of a new Yukon campground.”
“It is rich that when he was Environment minister, the leader of the official opposition, Currie Dixon, tried to bulldoze ahead with his poorly conceived plan for a campground on the shore of Atlin Lake in 2014. The Taku River Tlingit First Nation, who said they were not meaningfully consulted, sued the Yukon Party government and that campground, which was supposed to open in May 2015, never came to be,” the Liberal caucus statement reads.
“Our government will not be taking advice on campground development from the Yukon Party. It is critical to work with First Nations when a potential new campground would be on their traditional territory, and we will continue to do this work.”
The government has also been working on changing the rules governing use of existing campgrounds. It published the results gleaned from public engagement on campgrounds between April and December 2022. The engagement dealt with proposed regulations dealing with noise, domestic animals, liquor, smoking, park zoning and other areas governed by park regulations. The government dealt with stakeholders and issued a public survey that was answered by more than 1,400 respondents.
The results of the survey showed that more than 60 per cent of respondents agreed with each of the proposed regulations. Updates to the general park regulations including prohibiting actions that might contaminate a water source and feeding wildlife among other provisions enjoyed 79 per cent support.
Comments received by the government included recommended controls on the use of generators and regulations requiring that campers control excessively loud dogs and clean up pet waste.
A proposed regulation would “clarify the authority to temporarily ban liquor consumption in certain campgrounds” as a way of managing partying such as at the Yukon River Campground while the Dawson City Music Festival is on. In total, 112 comments opposing this measure were received.
Broad support for rules either prohibiting or managing the use of drones in and around campgrounds was also noted.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org