Ta’an Kwach’an Council restores dump site

The old Range Road dump site looks a lot different than it did seven years ago, thanks to a cleanup by the Ta'an Kwach'an Council.

The old Range Road dump site looks a lot different than it did seven years ago, thanks to a cleanup by the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.

Yesterday, the council unveiled three interpretive panels at the site, detailing its historical use, the cleanup effort, and its importance for fish and wildlife.

The panels sit on top of a sandy plateau, with steep cliffs dropping to the Yukon River on one side and McIntyre Creek on the other. Grasses, trees and wildflowers cover the rich landscape.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in Whitehorse,” said Emmie Fairclough, manager of Lands, Resources, and Heritage for the council. “You’ve got river traffic here, you’ve got wildlife crossing, it’s just a gorgeous place.”

An immature bald eagle soared over the heads of the small crowd who gathered for the unveiling.

Some clues to the site’s dirty past remain: an old abandoned car, some scrap metal and rusted tin cans poking out through the dirt. But the transformation has been dramatic.

Dumping in the area began in the 1940s. A lot of waste was dropped over the edge of the cliffs and ended up in the river.

In 1975, the site was closed because of its proximity to the water and dumping moved to the Whitehorse landfill site that exists today.

The Ta’an Kwach’an Council began the cleanup effort in 2005.

“Our goal of the project was to get rid of the surface garbage and make sure there was no toxic waste getting into McIntyre Creek,” said Fairclough.

Seven years ago, old cars, scrap metal, and barrels containing unknown substances littered the landscape. At low water levels, you could see the thousands of tires scattered along the river bed.

“You could look down and see tires everywhere,” said Fairclough.

After removing the surface garbage, including 16 tonnes of scrap metal and 16 dump trucks full of tires, the area was covered with half a metre of soil and seeded with native plant species to encourage revegetation.

The goal was to “effect a change in people’s minds from viewing it as a dump site to a green space within the community that has been restored and can be used,” said Ben Snow with Environmental Dynamics Inc., which partnered with the council on the project.

The area was historically important to both the Ta’an Kwach’an and the Kwanlin Dun people.

McIntyre Creek is a documented chinook salmon spawning and rearing stream, Snow said.

The cleanup crews found the remnants of an old cabin and fish camp site on the cliffs below the old dump where the creek flows into the Yukon River.

“The Ta’an Kwach’an have lived here for a really long time, they’ve lived here all their lives, this is their home,” said Fairclough. “And their goal is to take care of their traditional territory and this is one of their projects, cleaning up. They want to clean it up and keep it for their grandchildren.”

The cleanup effort cost over a million dollars, Fairclough estimated.

Most of that came from the Northern Strategy Trust Fund. The Yukon River Panel Restoration and Enhancement Fund paid for the interpretive panels.

The City of Whitehorse waived the dumping fees to move the junk to the existing landfill, and helped with the recycling of some materials.

The council hopes that the area will be officially designated as a park or recreation site, said Fairclough.

But for now, she hopes that people will come out and use the site, read the interpretive panels, sit and watch the stars or the northern lights, or wait to see the wildlife go by.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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