Old trails are gold in the Klondike

In the Yukon early travel usually followed rivers and foot trails. Today, those trail routes around Dawson are enjoying a transformation with the Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society (KATTS).

In the Yukon early travel usually followed rivers and foot trails.

Today, those trail routes around Dawson are enjoying a transformation with the Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society (KATTS).

The group’s mandate is to encourage the use of trails as a means to promote healthy, active living and to create economic opportunities for Dawson and local workers, particularly youth.

The society was formed three years ago by a small, dedicated group of outdoor recreation enthusiasts who noted the shortage of trails in the Dawson area.

On Saturday, a barbecue will be held to celebrate the opening of the new Ninth Avenue trail. This route will connect the Dyke Trail to the network of trails at Crocus Bluff and provide a complete loop around the town.

It is the hub of what the society envisions as a larger network for both visitors and the local community. Rather than having to drive a car to go for a hike, the group’s hope is for people to enjoy the outdoors not far from their own backyards.

“Being in town, basically people in Dawson have easy access to the trail. It allows people to get a good view of Dawson – there’s a nice lookout, right at the north end,” says Sonny Parker, an 18-year-old trail crew member.

The trails increase the options for outdoor recreational activities for Dawson and the surrounding area. Visitors are also encouraged to discover Dawson’s history on routes such as the Discovery Trail at Bonanza Creek.

The society has been funded primarily from the Yukon’s Community Development Fund. This July, when Ottawa announced its’ stimulus package, money was set aside for building trails across the country, to be managed by the National Trails Coalition.

As a member of the Canadian Trails Federation, Dawson’s trail society was eligible for some of this funding.

Partnerships for funding were also developed with Yukon Parks and the Tr’ondek H’wech’in First Nation, resulting in 23 full-time staff and nine casual workers building or improving five new trails this year.

Since the group’s inception, crews have worked on such projects as the North Klondike Trail in Tombstone Territorial Park.

This year, Goldensides Mountain is the site of a new trail within Tombstone. Besides the Ninth Avenue Trail, crews repaired flood damage at Rock Creek and developed a new trail on the Centenary Discovery Claim up the Discovery Trail on Bonanza Road. The project also provided funding to hire Tr’ondek H’wech’in First Nation youth.

All in all, the dedicated group has received just over $200,000 this year. Support from organizations such as the chamber of commerce, along with letters of support from the community, has contributed to accessing this funding.

The projects have had many immediate benefits, both economic and recreational.

Sixty-four workers have been hired over the last three summers, and most of those have been youth. The society commits to hiring youth because trail-building work provides an opportunity to gain skills, as well as develop experience and leadership abilities.

“There are always different tasks to do,” says Hannah Findlay-Brooks, another 18-year-old trail crew member. “I didn’t know the first thing about carpentry before. With this job, I got to use different tools like a grinder, and sledgehammers; I even learned how to use a chainsaw.”

The knowledge that their hard work was contributing to something useful was also gratifying.

“I really like contributing,” says Findley-Brooks; “It feels good when people are walking along the trail and say to us, ‘That looks great.’ It feels good knowing

that you’ve left a mark.”

The society also hired locally to keep the skills within Dawson, and to make it possible for people to work close to home. Supporting businesses by buying building supplies locally has been another of the project’s benefits.

Looking at the bigger picture, the trails society wants to instill greater confidence in hikers and pedestrians for using trails. With a future plan for well-marked walking routes, information about hazards, future maps and signs, users will be able to enjoy the trails with a destination and fewer unknowns. The trails will also reduce the impact of pedestrian traffic on delicate flora and on wildlife corridors.

To experience the new Ninth Avenue trail, come out and join the event on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the foot of Crocus Bluffs.

A historian will be on hand to give an interpretive information about the trail. There will be food and an opportunity to meet the hard-working and enthusiastic trail crew members.

“The Yukon was originally a territory travelled by river, and trails are not new,” says Alex Brooks, the project co-ordinator. “From First Nations’ trading routes to trappers’ lines, we’re building on a tradition that has been longstanding in the Yukon, and hopefully, helping to create a healthy, sustainable community in the process.”

Tiss Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Dawson City.