Plans to pave Dawson City’s Front Street may jeopardize the community’s efforts to become a world heritage site, and that worries Mayor John Steins.
He has no personal affection for bumps in the road, which connects the Klondike Highway to the ferry, ice road and the Top of the World Highway.
And he realizes that disparaging the territory’s plans to pave the road from early May to late June for $3.5 million may sound downright ungrateful.
“What’s wrong with those whining Dawsonites, right?” he asked.
“But it’s the big picture. It’s the question of not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” said Steins.
“People come here expecting to see a historic place, not a blacktop.”
Front Street is currently coated with chip seal, which is a cheaper, rougher road surface than conventionally paved asphalt.
“It looks like gravel, but it’s frozen in place,” said Steins. “It’s rough.”
Chip seal also breaks more easily than asphalt, especially when worn away at by slow-moving traffic.
Such has been the case with Front Street, where tour buses wheel around and, in doing so, pull apart the surface.
The result is a dusty, pothole-ridden road that is in constant need of repair, says Steve Nordick, Klondike MLA.
He promised constituents the road would be properly paved shortly after he was elected, and insists most Dawsonites support the project.
Steins himself won’t say whether he’s for or against the roadwork – council hasn’t discussed the matter yet, he said.
But he’s happy to list some objections.
“Gravel roads, believe it or not, are identified as a heritage value. It’s of national significance, not just Dawson or Yukon,” he said.
Dawson City has been shortlisted to be a United Nations World Heritage Centre. A paved Front Street may harm the town’s odds of receiving the designation, said Steins.
“People don’t think about it. But what would people say if we took up the boardwalk? That’s kind of going in the same path. Concrete is so much less maintenance; we wouldn’t need to replace the boards.”
“It’s the same deal, except people get excited when you talk about roads.”
The current ribbon of road will also be expanded to include aprons and extended to meet sidestreets.
The work should make for smoother driving. But, if Steins is right, it may also diminish Dawson’s historic character -Ã‚Â which is what draws busloads of tourists down Front Street in the first place.
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