Dawsonite calls on territory to take over heritage buildings

A longtime Dawsonite wants the territorial government to take over some of Dawson City's heritage buildings from Parks Canada. Greg Hakonson helped found the Dawson City Arts Society.

A longtime Dawsonite wants the territorial government to take over some of Dawson City’s heritage buildings from Parks Canada.

Greg Hakonson helped found the Dawson City Arts Society. He says that some of the town’s heritage buildings could be put to use as part of the art school campus, or as homes for local businesses, but to do it the Yukon government would have to wrest control of them from the federal government.

“A good example of that would be Bear Creek. There’s a group of people in Dawson that are in the process of striking a friends of Bear Creek society, and the arts society is looking at getting more activity happening at Bear Creek,” Hakonson said.

“It’s in pretty good shape. There’s a huge, huge root cellar out there. It’s above ground, but it’s got walls that must be six feet thick. They say it’s in fine shape. We’ve got a whole bunch of gardeners here looking for a way to store vegetables,” he said.

While Hakonson isn’t arguing that the big attractions like Dredge No. 4 should move to the territory, he wants to see some of the smaller ones like the Dawson Daily News fixed up and reopened.

“Thirteen years ago, when we started the Dawson City Arts Society, one of the things we wanted to was start a degree-granting university, which we finally did as the school of visual arts. In strategizing for that, we realized that Parks wasn’t doing anything with their buildings, and they would make perfect campuses for the university,” said Hakonson.

“Thirteen years ago, we negotiated a memo with Parks that one day, if we did get a degree-granting university up and running, we could use their buildings. We have a signed agreement with them,” he said.

Hakonson said he’d like to see Dawson City named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but that means bringing the old buildings back to life.

Klondike Liberal MLA Sandy Silver agrees.

“The assets have been left to die, especially in the Bear Creek area. When it was left from the day, there were cups of coffee left just sitting there. It was just abandoned,” Silver said.

“For me, I think it makes a certain amount of sense for an arrangement to be made with the feds to transfer the assets and establish a pot of money to continue the good work done to date by Parks,” he said.

Silver said that over the past 10 years Parks Canada has become increasingly absent from the territory, and last year’s cuts to search and rescue in Kluane, and tours at the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4 are just the latest example.

“The writing is on the wall that Parks is becoming an absentee landlord and I believe that our collection deserves more. This territorial government should believe in our heritage as well, but it seems they are happy to just walk away,” Silver said.

Matthew Grant, a spokesman for the Yukon government’s cabinet office, said that at present, the heritage sites in Dawson City are the property of another government and that taking them over isn’t something the Yukon government is currently looking at.

Contact Jesse Winter at


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