Atlin campground plan draws criticism

Some people are unhappy with a Yukon government proposal to build a new campground on Atlin Lake. A parcel of land has been set aside between the Atlin Road and the eastern shore of Atlin Lake, just north of the B.C.

Some people are unhappy with a Yukon government proposal to build a new campground on Atlin Lake.

A parcel of land has been set aside between the Atlin Road and the eastern shore of Atlin Lake, just north of the B.C. border.

About 40 people attended a public consultation in Whitehorse Wednesday evening to learn more about the plans.

Yukon has not seen a new campground in 25 years.

On weekends in the summer, finding a spot within two hours of Whitehorse can be a challenge, said Eric Schroff, director of Yukon Parks.

“We hear a lot of comments about, ‘I went to Wolf Creek, went to Marsh Lake, went to Kusawa, and finally found a spot in Twin Lakes.’ That’s a lot of wandering around to find a spot.”

The land parcel has a few neighbours, including Camp Yukon, some private residences, active trap lines and an active placer mining claim.

It falls within the traditional territory of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

Several people spoke about safety concerns related to having a public campground directly adjacent to a camp for children.

There will be a buffer of a few hundred metres between the campground and the camp, said Schroff, who led the discussion.

But that didn’t satisfy some, who mentioned that existing trails as well as the shoreline will provide easy access between the two areas.

Critics said that people intent on mischief will not be dissuaded by “no trespassing” signs, and the camp’s infrastructure and equipment could be put at risk.

One person who spoke out of concern for Camp Yukon suggested that campers might have their friends bring alcohol and drugs into the campground, and bring it from there into the camp.

Concern was also expressed for the fish stocks in Atlin Lake.

The government has committed to study the fishery and implement regulations as required, Parks staff said.

Don Toews spoke on behalf of the Carcross Tagish Renewable Resource Council.

From more than 40 years of fisheries management experience, he knows that lake trout are very sensitive to increased fishing pressure, he said.

“Managing lake trout from a fisheries manager’s perspective is the hardest thing there is,” said Toews. “We really haven’t got the tool to do it. Because lake trout, they grow very, very slowly, they mature at a late age.”

Lake trout that are 25 or 30 years old are the norm in the Yukon, he said.

“In reality, access is the only management tool that we have. And access can be pretty subtle. In the Yukon, whether a lake is accessible at one end or at both ends makes a huge difference in terms of the pressure on the lake trout populations.”

Even whether or not the access road is paved can have a huge effect, he said.

John Ward, spokesperson for the Taku River Tlingit, attended the meeting.

The Atlin-based First Nation has spoken out against the campground because the Yukon government has failed to deal with its unsettled land claim.

The B.C. First Nation’s traditional territory crosses the boundary into the Yukon.

“Let’s get on with our treaty process and bring certainty to the whole area,” said Ward.

Until governments sit down and reach an agreement on land claims, development projects in the traditional territory should not be considered, he said.

“Supreme courts have been saying consistently and across Canada that these constitutional matters are well upstream from all of these matters, and they’ve got to be dealt with.”

So far, the Yukon government has shown little appetite to resolve those outstanding issues, said Ward.

But the First Nation is ready, he said.

Parks officials also hosted public meetings in Carcross on Tuesday and in Atlin on Thursday.

The campground project is currently under review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

Detailed information about the project is available on the YESAB website. The board will accept comments through October 18.

The government’s plan is for construction to begin early next year, and for the campground to open in 2015.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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