City planner Erica Beasley points out proposed improvements on a Schwatka Lake map during a town hall meeting in Whitehorse on April 26. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Float plane operators call for more parking, dock space at Schwatka Lake

A growing population is putting more demands on the area, attendees said at a meeting April 26

The city needs to add parking along Schwatka Lake and then increase the dock space available for floatplanes, city officials were told at an April 26 information session at the Gold Rush Inn.

The meeting was heavily attended by floatplane pilots who called on the city to get moving on implementing the lake area plan that would see increases to parking and dock spaces.

“We’ve got to get the parking started,” Iain de la Mare said.

De la Mare is a floatplane owner who’s been on the city’s wait list to get dock space for about five years. He acknowledged there have been improvements to the area in recent years, but noted there are a number of important initiatives in the 2015 area plan that haven’t gotten underway.

City planner Erica Beasley told the 54 in attendance the average wait time for a dock is between six and nine years with 17 operators currently on the wait list. There are 19 sites available with 14 new docks planned in the future.

It was pointed out that parking is the first issue that has to be dealt with before any additional docks can be added.

“If you don’t get parking going, nothing else is going to happen,” said Gerd Mannsperger, Alpine Aviation’s chief pilot. “Parking is the first step.”

The area is becoming squeezed as the city’s population grows and a variety of lake and trail users are spending more time there, several attendees pointed out.

The area plan identifies three potential areas for additional parking, but as Beasley explained finding the resources to put in those spaces is the challenge.

The city is facing staff and capacity issues along with a budget that is already tight, she said.

Parking improvement are also proving to be a hard sell to potential external funding sources.

“It’s not a sexy story,” Beasley said, though she added the city would continue applying for external funding.

Mannsperger said some areas are more difficult than others to add parking and any improvements would be better than none. He suggested the city should figure out the best way to use the limited space there is.

“There’s a lot of things we can do,” he said.

A number of floatplane operators volunteered their own time and expertise to get things moving on the improvements that would add parking and then more dock space.

There was applause throughout the room as each speaker stressed the needs for parking and dock space.

Following the meeting, Beasley said the call for action on the area plan is a reflection of the demand in the area and did not come as any surprise for her.

She said the city has been able to accomplish a lot of work outlined in the 2015 plan already — the creation of an aerodrome webpage, the dock permitting information package made available online, the introduction of spill kit requirements and more.

Beasley said officials would continue efforts on the parking issue as they continue to implement the plan.

“Parking facilitates everything else,” she said.

Beasley said she would take the input lake users provided and share it with council.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddel@yukon-news.com

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