Yukon Quest executive director Stephen Reynolds is resigning.
“It’s not a bad thing,” said a Quest board member who asked to remain anonymous.
“He’s done quite a stint.”
Reynolds is leaving in the spring, said the board member.
“I think a change in any organization is good,” added former board member Frank Turner.
“Just like a dog team, you need new blood in there sometimes to accomplish your goals.”
Reynolds has represented the Quest well, said Turner.
Rumours of Reynolds impending resignation been circulating the mushing community since late January.
Reynolds refused to discuss his departure.
“I’m not able to talk about it,” said Tania Simpson, Reynold’s Alaskan counterpart.
“You will have to talk to him directly.”
“That hasn’t been confirmed,” said Reynolds at the Dawson Checkpoint.
The executive director is responsible for three things, said Turner.
One of them is the purse.
This year, the purse is short $50,000.
“Part of the difficulty is that YTG stepped in to help for the past two years (giving $50,000 a year to the purse),” said Turner. “That may have prevented the Quest from being more aggressive – it was a cushion.”
When Reynolds is replaced, it’s critical the board choose the right person “to move the Quest forward,” said Turner.
“The board has to be accountable.”
And the executive director needs to be “evaluated regularly to make sure everything’s moving in a positive direction.”
About nine years ago, the race approached the territorial government, under former Liberal leader Pat Duncan.
“It was the same thing then,” said Turner.
“There was no money for the purse, and it needed something to get it over the hump.”
The government committed $180,000 a year so the Quest “could focus on marketing and getting stabilized,” said Turner.
Since then, the government has given the race nearly $2 million, he said.
“And it’s still struggling – so something has gone off the rails here.”
The Quest seems to be recirculating money internally rather than bringing new money in, added Turner.
Right now, the organization is in “crisis intervention” mode, dealing with issues like the purse, or last year’s shoddy trail.
Putting out fires “takes too much time and energy that should be going into the race,” said Turner.
The race needs to focus on the purse, the trail, media and the vet program, he added.
This year, Turner brought tourists to the first checkpoint at Braeburn.
It’s part of a mushing package he offers.
“I told them to watch how mushers massage their dogs and bed them down,” he said.
“But they never saw a team.
“They went there in the middle of the night and couldn’t see anything.”
Ropes and pylons kept tourists hundreds of metres away from the mushers and their dogs.
“So what’s the point?” said Turner.
With its $75 tickets, the start banquet was also pricey, he said.
“They don’t run their raffle or bother to apply for funding, and then they charge $75 a head.”
If a musher wants to bring his or her family that’s $400, said Turner. And mushers already spend tens of thousands just to run this race.
“The Quest needs to be generating money from Outside to make the banquet accessible to mushers and their families,” he said.
“They cut back the purse and make you pay for it at the banquet.”
The Quest needs to “renew its focus and work in the spirit of what the race is supposed to be about,” added Turner.
“The Quest isn’t even close to reaching its potential.
“And someone has to be accountable for that.”
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