National Park Service plans Chilkoot Trail upgrades

A hiker on the Chilkoot Trail, heading toward Lindeman City. (Flickr Creative Commons/Joseph)

The National Park Service is planning two projects in the Skagway area. One is a redesign of the Chilkoot Trail parking and welcome area in Dyea, and the other is a new dormitory in downtown Skagway’s historic district.

The Chilkoot Trail is one of Skagway’s most iconic attractions. Tourists from across the globe come to retrace the footsteps of gold seekers racing to Dawson City over the rugged mountain trail during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The area in line for upgrades includes an interpretive map, a rustic outhouse and a couple of dirt parking lots that get overwhelmed during busy summer seasons.

There are multiple upgrade plans being considered by the National Park Service including a new visitor kiosk, restroom, river overlook, bike racks, benches, interpretive panels, a passenger drop-off zone and improved parking.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Superintendent Angela Watts said steps have been taken to reduce impacts on rare plants and animals such as the boreal toad.

One of the mitigations that we’ve taken when we were looking at different alternatives and designs was to move it as close as we could to that bridge side so that we could get out of the prime toad habitat. There are some rare plants in there as well, which would include an orchid and a violet. And those can be transplanted,” Watts said.

Watts acknowledged that the Taiya River is constantly eroding the river bank and changing the river’s course, but she says the area they are considering for the upgrades shouldn’t be affected.

The USGS did a study on the movement of the river and the hydrology of the area, and that is an area that is not expected to cut into the bank like we see over in the old Dyea townsite,” said Watts.

The plans and environmental impact studies are available for review and public comment at parkplanning.nps.gov.

The public comment period closes on June 21, and there will be a public presentation of the plans at the historic William Moore Cabin on 5th and Spring Street in Skagway on June 15 at 6 pm.

Another project the Park Service is planning is a new dormitory in the downtown historic district of Skagway, which will house up to 12 seasonal park employees. But the project is facing pushback from members of Skagway’s planning and zoning commission.

On Tuesday night the Park Service argued three relief requests in front of the Skagway Board of Appeals. They won one appeal, which allows them to build the dormitory without a fence. They lost an appeal about reducing the size of two of the four parking spaces allotted for the tenants. The last appeal, which involves the distance between a fire escape window and the property line, is still undecided .

The dormitory will be located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Broadway Street, with the front of the building facing Fourth Ave. Watts said she hopes construction will start by the end of June.

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