The Facebook page Skagway Swap turned three years old this month. It serves a town of about 800 people, but there are nearly 2,000 Facebook users following the page.
In a small, isolated town like Skagway, it’s expensive to buy new things and it’s expensive to get rid of items you don’t need. There’s no Craigslist. Skagway Swap fills that void – people sell things and exchange information. There’s a lot of furniture, clothing, books. And some unusual items too, like a bidet.
19-year-resident Andrew Cremata says he buys furniture or other items off Skagway Swap every couple of weeks. The most recent thing he bought is a power tool.
But he says it goes beyond used furniture and power tools.
“I think where Skagway Swap deviates a little from the model of being a source for buying and selling and trading items is where it gets more into the community aspects of Skagway where you’re swapping information,” Cremata said.
Skagway Swap is one of the main places people go to get the word out about events and community issues. They also use the page to post pictures of lost dogs wandering around town, icy road conditions, things like that.
It’s used in some pretty wild ways too. A bike thief was caught with the help of the Skagway Swap. Earlier this year, there was a problem bear roaming the town. People posted updates tracking the bear around town.
“So it was really nice to be able to look at my phone and be like “alright, he’s out wandering around,” or the problem has been taken care of so it’s a way to keep informed like that,” said Rebecca Hylton, who’s lived in Skagway for 10 years.
The problem bear was shot, and that caused a whole different kind of conversation on Skagway Swap. People debated whether the person who shot the bear was in the right.
“Skagway Swap is a chance for people to vent about their own frustrations about how the situation was handled or praise the way it was handled or at least raise questions,” Cremata said.
Kim Burnham couldn’t have predicted the many ways people would use Skagway Swap. She created the page in 2011 with the goal of reducing waste by recycling used items.
She says the page allows people who aren’t in the same circles to exchange information and stuff.
“One person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” Hylton said. “That’s for sure.”
It makes sense for Skagway residents to follow the Facebook page. But there are nearly 2,000 people on Skagway Swap, that’s way more than the total number of people in town.
There are a lot of members who live in Skagway seasonally or used to live there, and then some from Juneau, Haines and Whitehorse. But there are also people who live in different states and countries.
“I just visited Florida to visit some friends and there were a number of them who said how much they enjoyed the Skagway Swap page,” Cremata said.
He says it gives people a little window into what life is like in a small Alaskan town.
Because there are so many people on the page, Burnham has help managing it from three other people. They deny access to spammers and delete inappropriate posts.
Cremata says he knows people who don’t really want to be on Facebook, but they sign up for it anyway just so they can access Skagway Swap.
Hylton is one of those people. She does not like Facebook.
“I really consider getting rid of it all the time, I don’t like being tied to my phone,” she said. “But one of the reasons why I do keep it is because of the Skagway Swap page.”
Burnham, the creator of Skagway Swap, says that is the ultimate compliment.