The municipality of Skagway is working to maximize the use of its waterfront without sacrificing quality of life for its residents. Industry groups, international leaders, and local representatives sat down in Skagway to figure out how they all might fit in Skagway’s waterfront plans.
The Committee of the Whole meeting in Skagway brought together a diverse group with the same interest: the waterfront. It’s the municipality’s greatest asset.
The meeting brought heavy-hitters to the table, including Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, major cruise ship company executives, White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, and the assembly. They were asked to consider the community’s input on the future of the port and bring forward their own concerns.
Mayor Andrew Cremata set tone for the meeting
“I think we all are familiar with the issues of the port,” he said.
“We all have our own perspectives on what those issues are, and how we can accomplish solutions. We have a diverse population of people in Skagway and they’re all concerned about the port, too, because it is our livelihood.”
The deep water port has brought lucrative cruise ship tourism to the small town, but other interests depend on it as well. Cargo and fuel barges need space, and a renaissance of the mining industry in the Yukon depends on the port for access to distant markets.
Yukon Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai says the mineral economy in the Yukon is growing.
“We are going through a strong cycle when it comes to the mineral sector,” he said.
“So what we want to be able to do is have a conversation and understand what’s happening from now until 2023 and do what we feel we need to do as partners with you to ensure that we have access to that deep water.”
The Minto mine is coming back online and representatives from the Yukon government anticipate growing needs at the port. They were quick to note that Skagway and the Yukon share a tourism interest that is based in their mining history.
Cruise ships bring in most of the tourism in Skagway. Holland America Executive Charlie Ball says that he doesn’t want to foot the bill for any industrial infrastructure at the port, but that Skagway should figure out a plan and name its price.
“I think it needs each part of the part of the harbor needs to to sustain itself in the long term. But certainly, if there were changes to the way the berths work and it costs more to birth there, I think we would just put that into our economic models,” he said.
Bell said Skagway is a desireable destination and cruise ships will continue to come even if the cost goes up.
Assemblyman Orion Hansen says the key to success at the waterfront is keeping commercial and industrial interests separate.
“The better we can separate those options, the better our port will function, he said.
“We don’t want to wait till the end of 20 23. We want to take action soon and come up with a plan that really works.”
He advocated for Ore Dock remediation to be the first step to any changes at the waterfront.
The municipality has many factors to consider as it moves forward with implementing hours worth of feedback from various stakeholders. Mayor Cremata closed the meeting by acknowledging that if each was a little bit upset, it might be an indication of a compromise well done.
Hear the full meeting here: https://www.skagway.org/bc-ba/page/waterfront-stakeholder-work-session