A kilted competitor bears down as he and other skiers kick up snow at the start of the 20th annual Buckwheat Ski Classic. More than 263 skied this year. Stories, results and more photos in Race Coverage and BSC box.

Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Done deal

Chilkoot-Falls Creek land exchange signed

ANCHORAGE – State and federal land managers on April 3 announced that they had concluded a land exchange that “will allow clean hydroelectric power in Gustavus and improved management of Skagway’s historic Chilkoot Trail,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Michael L. Menge in a press release.
The department traded 1,040 acres of state land along the Chilkoot in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park for 1,034 acres in the Falls Creek area surrounding the community of Gustavus inside Glacier Bay National Park, in a deal finalized when DNR Acting Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels and National Park Service Alaska Regional Director Marcia Blaszak exchanged deeds in Anchorage last Friday.
“This exchange will give an Alaska community surrounded on three sides by a national park a reliable source of clean energy, and gives the Park Service title to land along a popular historic trail that gets thousands of visitors a year,” Menge said. “By working together in good faith and keeping the interests of both residents and visitors in mind, DNR and the Park Service have concluded a good deal for all concerned.”
Governor Frank H. Murkowski expressed his satisfaction at the conclusion of the deal as well.
“This demonstrates that the state and federal government can accommodate the many public and private uses of land in Southeast Alaska,” the governor said. “I commend all parties to these negotiations, and believe this spirit of cooperation and accommodation of federal, state and local needs will extend to resolution of similar issues that may arise in the future.”
The Falls Creek land exchange idea dates back to 1980, when the owner of the Gustavus Electric Association co-operative utility first proposed supplementing its diesel generators with a small, hydroelectric generator on Falls Creek to provide power for the town, which now has 459 residents.
Exchange efforts in the 1980s and mid-1990s foundered until Congress passed the Glacier Bay National Park Boundary Adjustment Act in 1998, authorizing an exchange of wilderness land inside Glacier National Park for several state-owned parcels of land along the Chilkoot Trail that the Park Service was already managing under agreement with DNR.
A joint National Park Service/Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental impact statement concluded in 2004 that such an exchange would be appropriate, opening the way for the state and federal governments to negotiate a final deal. That deal includes creation of wilderness on 1,069 acres comprising Cenotaph Island in Lituya Bay and an island in Blue Mouse Cove, in compensation for the wilderness acreage lost in the Falls Creek area. As appraisals valued the Falls Creek land at $1,140,000, compared to $1,206,000 for the Chilkoot parcels, the exchange deal included a payment of $66,000 from NPS to the state. Extensive public involvement in the exchange plans also led to accommodation of local Skagway residents’ desires for certain land to remain in state hands, Menge said.
The City of Skagway initially was opposed to the deal, but backed off when it was deeded more than 900 acres of state land around Dyea to relieve the town’s housing crunch. The community weighed in on different parcels proposed for exchange, and the agencies took some lower trail parcels off the list. At a Jan. 18 public hearing, the revised map included seven parcels where the park has camping or visitor facilities in Dyea and on the Chilkoot. There was some objection to the Dyea parcels being included, but no changes to the map were made after the public hearing, said Theresa Thibault, chief of resources for Skagway-based KGRNHP.
After the ceremony on March 31, DNR issued authorization to the Gustavus Electric Association to begin building the small, 800-kilowatt hydroelectric facility and associated facilities. A construction barge had already arrived in the community to start work on the project, according to the Fairweather Reporter.
“I commend the people of the Division of Mining, Land and Water for their work with the Park Service and with the communities of Gustavus and Skagway in bringing this 25-year effort to a successful conclusion,” Menge said. – JB

Cinderella DDF team shocks SE

Entire SHS team qualifies for State Tourney in Anchorage

If you thought George Mason making it to the NCAA Final Four was the long-shot pick of the spring, think again. The Skagway Drama, Debate and Forensics (DDF) team, in its first year of competition, has qualified for ASAA Alaska DDF State Tourney.
At the Southeast meet in Sitka last weekend, the rookie team of six students from the smallest school in the competition, finished third in the region against bigger squads from Juneau, Sitka, Mt. Edgecumbe, Wrangell, and Haines.
“They kicked butt and took names,” said a jubilant assistant coach Billi Clem via cell phone as the team journeyed home on the ferry. Along with head coach Kent Fielding and assistant Brandon Demery, they are taking pride in announcing this tourney resume:
Expository speaking: Yasmin Corbi, first, for her piece on autism; Arielle Stegall, third, for her piece on fairies; and Caroline Botman, fifth, for her piece on French fries.
Oration: Emily Jashiki, first, for her piece about persuading families to listen to their children about drugs and other teen issues.
Duet: Jashiki and Botman, first for “Love and Peace, Mary Jo”.
Readers theater: Cody Burnham, Erica Harris, Stegall and Botman took second place for their piece called “Judgment Day” about the Columbine shootings.
Duet interpretation: Jashiki and Burnham for “Acorns”.
Humorous interpretation: Burnham for “From K’s Memoirs.”
Of those pieces that placed before judges, three were then selected for prestigious “command” performances in front of all 300 kids on the final night.
“For Skagway to get three commands is incredible,” Clem said, “and our entire team qualified for State, that’s unheard of.”
Burnham said a lot of participants said they were surprised at how far the Skagway team had come in one year. “We had done okay at earlier meets, but in Sitka we did really well,” he said.
The team will go to State competition April 28-30 in Anchorage.
“These kids are dedicated, practicing three hours a night,” she added. “They want to beat some Anchorage teams. They are so stoked.”
Skagway residents will get to see a special presentation of all their performances at the Eagles Hall on the evening of April 15. The Haines team also will be here. See details in Broadway Bulletin Board announcements.

Northern premiere of ‘The Big White’ here April 22

At long last, film fans from Skagway and nearby communities will be able to see their new-found Hollywood friends in “The Big White,” the movie starring Robin Williams and Holly Hunter that was shot on the White Pass summit in April 2004.
The film, which has been in limited release since last fall, will be the featured movie at the annual Skagway Alaska Film Festival. There will be two free shows on Saturday, April 22, at 5 and 7 p.m. at the National Park Service auditorium.
The Ascendant Pictures film crew resided in Skagway for a month during shooting on the pass. Williams was often seen biking around town, and the comic-actor occasionally entertained locals with his famous improvisations at various establishments. Co-stars Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, Alison Lohman, Woody Harrelson, and Tim Blake Nelson also were very approachable.
The film premiered in Europe last August, and has hit a few festivals on this continent with mixed reviews. The dark comedy follows an Alaska travel agent (Williams) who cooks up a bizarre financial scheme involving a dead body to help out his deranged wife (Hunter) who is suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome. The snow scenes were shot on the pass, and there was also some shooting in Whitehorse, which will have the film at a festival in late June. More scenes were shot in Winnipeg, home of screenwriter Collin Friesen, after the northern scenes wrapped.
For the Fantastic Fest in Texas last October, British director D. Mark Mylod described the film: “The Big White uses black comedy to disguise its essential humanity and tenderness. The characters are hilariously flawed yet their desperation to transcend their circumstances, to escape, can simultaneously break our hearts. To me the film is as much a poignant love story as it is a comedy.”
Skagway festival director Dimitra Lavrakas said it is rated PG-13 and has some violence and strong language. It is not advisable for children under 13, who will have to be accompanied by parents.
The festival will conclude on Sunday, April 23 with the showing of “The Aleut Story” at 5 p.m. at the NPS auditorium. “Recently shown at film festivals across the country, this documentary covers the painful relocation of the Aleut people from the Aleutians during WWII,” Lavrakas said.
Run time is one hour. Coffee, cake and good conversation will be served after the film.
“Thanks to Sandy Snell-Dobert and Jim Corless of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Marla William, director of “The Aleut Story,” and Sheila Kennedy, production executive, Ascendant Pictures,” Lavrakas added.

Folk Fest April 21
The 16th annual International Folk Festival begins in Skagway on Friday, April 21 with a concert at the Presbyterian Church beginning at 7 p.m.
The show will feature musicians from Skagway and elsewhere in Southeast Alaska, as well as the Yukon Territory. A potluck with musicians will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Rec. Hall next door.
After the Skagway concert, the musicians will move up the road to Whitehorse for a performance on April 22.
A complete list of musicians will appear in the April 21 issue. For more information, contact Barb Kalen with the Skagway Fine Arts Council at 983-2276.


Race Stories: The Buckwheat sans Buckwheat

• Howling for the BSC from Skagway to the 'Heartbeat Trail' in Minnesota

• UAA entourage wins; Mickey Wilson claims 10K, local girls rule kids race



Beth Cline and daughter Campbell react to being awarded the annual Miss Buckwheat crown and sash. Andrew Cremata

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP: Men's and Women's Bowling Champs Crowned

• OBITUARY: Danny Kalen, 1947-2006

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