Skip to content

Dawson City council defers campground lease cancellation

“It doesn’t mean that that work can’t happen, but it will probably be the work of the next council.”

The notice of cancellation for the lease of the downtown campground in Dawson City has been rescinded.

Dawson City council voted in an in-camera session Aug. 31 to withdraw the termination notice that had been issued months earlier.

This came with a sigh of relief from the operators of the Goldrush Campground, Pat and Dianne Brooks.

In a statement on their website, they thanked fellow tourism operators and guests “who let their opinion be known in favour of ‘in town’ accommodation”.

In fact, council had been subjected to an intense lobbying effort from the tourism industry for the continuation of the downtown site for visitors in RVs.

“The City of Dawson is threatening the stability of the tourism industry in our community,” said Brian Stethem, chair of the Klondike Visitors Association in a statement in early June. It was as if the gloves had come off.

Dawson City, with its historical and seasonal economic interests of mining and tourism parlaying for position, have found themselves home to what is now Yukon’s fastest growing rural community. It’s a community with a severe housing shortage for year-round residents.

Council found themselves in a difficult position. A move that had initially looked like council foresight – the preparation of a full city block as a possible location to replace their ill-fated and deteriorating recreation centre, turned into a conversation to assess the highest and best use of the downtown city block.

To understand that matter more fully, Dawson City council commissioned a study.

Dawson Mayor Wayne Potoroka explained, “The report was presented to council and its conclusion was that its highest and best use was for residential property.”

The pent-up demand for residential lots was too great, and the economic benefits of more full-year residents in the community outweighed a single tourism business operation.

Council found another location for the recreation centre. But, the best use of the large city parcel still hung in the air.

Potoroka described how council had been asked to vote on a resolution a few months ago that would make a clear statement about the highest and best use of the downtown block.

Discussions continued. Amendments were proposed. Council wondered if they had all the information they needed. After all, a community discussion about a recreation centre location had turned into a tourism versus housing discussion. Council realized that the community was split. Council was split.

“So what ended up happening was there was the motion to postpone indefinitely. Three people voted for and two against,” Potoroka continued. “We were voting, knowing that council wanted more information before they made what they knew to be a pretty significant decision.

“It doesn’t mean that that work can’t happen, but it will probably be the work of the next council.”

Contact Lawrie Crawford at