Paranoid in Skagway?

Come on, speak up on the issues you care about

The other night, those ghosts of old Skagway were talking to me again.
“What’s bothering you?”
In the last couple of years, we have noticed a disturbing trend in Skagway – people who say they are hesitant to speak up on important issues.
“Say what?!”
Yes, in Skagway, known for many years for the brazen independence of its citizens, we have people getting up at public meetings who say others are actually “afraid” to sound off for fear of disagreeing with their neighbors.
“Excuse me?!”
They even say they fear social and economic backlash.
“Are you serious?!”
That’s what three of our leading citizens – all former city council members – have stated in public at recent meetings. Thank goodness, they spoke out, or we’d never know that people are apparently afraid to stand up and be counted on issues ranging from Juneau Access to the future of medical care in the community.
“But those are important issues?!”
Absolutely. This is the town that stood up to the federal government on countless occasions over issues from the level of sewer treatment, to the location of the border station, to preserving the right to garden in Dyea. This is the town that told the state it damn well better not ever put us in the Haines Borough. This is the town where people for years have argued points at city council meetings, and then met for beers afterwards – people who can politely say hello to each other the next day in the grocery store. But sadly, those days may be gone, a victim of a culture of paranoia.
“You’re getting too philosophical. Where is this coming from?”
Good question. Its roots, we believe, are among those who also refuse to sign their names to a certain newsletter circulated around town, for fear of said alleged reprisals.
“But Skagway people have always stood up for what they believed in.”
So we thought. We have never turned away an opinion here at the newspaper, nor have we ever been afraid to ask a question, or print an opposing view, or even state our opinion if we feel strongly enough about something, even if others disagree. Those who are in the minority have a voice, and sometimes it can be louder than the majority and effect positive change. But if you don’t speak up...
“You have only yourself to blame.”
Precisely. – WJB

‘West White Pass’ should remain nameless
Taylor, others deserve to be honored in town
The recent effort by former city attorney Bill Ruddy to name West White Pass in honor of the late Marvin Taylor is heartening, but we believe this geographical landmark is too big to be named for any one person. Granted, White Pass was named for a Canadian bureaucrat in 1897, but the name fits the panoramic landscape eight months out of the year, and most people don’t know about Mr. Thomas White. Other names from history would be more appropriate, such as the men who discovered the pass, Skookum Jim and Capt. William Moore, but they already have things named for them in Alaska and the Yukon.
Taylor Pass just doesn’t sound right, especially since it was Marvin himself who, as railroad president, told the state to take down the “White Pass Summit” sign from the highway because it wasn’t the true White Pass and infringed on corporate identity. The state didn’t bother to fight him over it, and just took the sign down. Actually, once it opens up, it’s all White Pass summit country, and should stay that way. No need for another name to confuse visitors.
We have a better idea, and in a conversation with Ruddy, he has warmed to it.
A number of years ago, the Skagway Centennial Committee gave the city council a list of pioneer names from which to possibly name certain buildings and facilities in town. Marvin Taylor passed away after this list was compiled and certainly should be added to it, as should the late Edith Lee, Oscar Selmer, Si Dennis, and Bob Rapuzzi. We hope the Council revisits this. Taylor’s name would be more fitting on the new hatchery building, since he was instrumental in the development of Pullen Park and supportive of the hatchery program. The Lee name would be fitting on a community garden, the Selmer name on a ballpark or skating rink, the Dennis name on a footbridge, and the Rapuzzi name on a seawalk. The names Kirmse and Rasmuson are on rooms at the library. We always believed the Feero name should be on the community center, and the name Dedman on a local trail or a room at the museum. How about Hillery for the swimming pool? We’re sure you have ideas too. Let’s hear them, and maybe the Council will too. – WJB

And finally - two opposing views on Juneau Access from readers..

My solution to Juneau Access
Editor’s Note: This was submitted to the state Department of Transportation & Public Facilities as part of the public comment period and Mr. Beeks brought it in for publication.
I am against the plan to have a road between Juneau and Skagway because it appears that the cost is prohibitive and maintenance the same. Also, it would ruin some of Skagway’s prime natural resources and beauty.
That said, I offer some suggestions that should be considered as alternative plans to update the present water transportation system and solve some problems.
Within 1,000 miles we have two of the best-operating ferry systems in North America, and one of the worst – ours. In many ways, our present system is still the Alaska Steamship Co. of 50 years ago. A lot could be leaned from studying the Washington state and British Columbia ferry systems.
Juneau to Haines: We could put a ferry terminal in the area of Bridget Cove (possibly where the Fairweather used to dock) and one at Seduction Point (south end of the Haines peninsula). These two terminals could be modeled after the terminal in Port Townsend, Wash., and the other end of that line at Whidbey Island. A double-ended ferry of about the same size as the Whidbey Island ferry with the addition of watertight doors on each end should be used for this route. It would be only an hour-and-a-half run at present ferry speeds between these two points, about the same as the Port Townsend-Whidbey Island run.
With proper terminal and ferry design, unloading and loading could take place in less than 15 minutes. A boat of this size with no cabins, no food service, or overnight facilities would require a much smaller crew. Thus, a round trip would take under three-and-a-half hours. Roads are already in place in these areas. It is wasteful to run ferries if there are roads. This would alleviate the necessity of bringing mainline ferries to Haines and Skagway with their cumbersome docking and loading procedures.
Haines to Skagway: We could use the two present terminals (with modifications) with a small, two-man crew, double-ended ferry, such as the one that runs from Sandspit to Queen Charlotte City in British Columbia. This run is about the same as the one between Haines and Skagway.
Walk-on passengers would be transported on a bus operated by the Alaska marine Highway System between terminals. Buses run a lot cheaper than boats.
Our present vessels are fast enough between ports, but unloading and loading are inefficient to say the least. If you want to observe speed loading and unloading, you have only to take the Prince Rupert-Port Hardy run on the BC ferry and see how short a time they are stopped at Bella Bella and Ocean Falls.
By the way, DOT&PF speaks of the life of a ferry, and that some of ours are so old. They should look at some of the Washington state ferries built in the 30s and 40s and are as up-to-date as many of the ferries running today.
Please also look at BC’s experiment in high-speed ferries. The shoreline damage from the wakes was more than they could keep up with, and they never did go into service, seriously hampering BC’s transportation budget for some time.
The Cross Sound trip is fantastic. However, a crew of 30 for 20 passengers does not make economic sense. Is it true the Kennicott makes this trip in case some elected official wants to transport his or her car to Juneau and back? It would be cheaper for the state to furnish vehicles in Juneau for the politicians.
Why do we have ferry service south of Prince Rupert to Bellingham, when a good, all-weather road parallels the route?
Some of the suggestions I have made could be in place by summer of 2004 with present equipment and ambitious imagination.
Please do me the courtesy of actually reading and maybe considering the points I have made, as I have given this matter a lot of thought for several years.
-Fred M. Beeks

He says build the road
Editor’s Note: This is another public comment letter submitted to DOT&PF by e-mail from Richards’ winter home in Hawaii.
Since Skagway has been evolving for over a 100 years now, the road to Juneau is a logical next step to bring more Southeast communities together and eventually lower costs of access to and from the people who live in these communities. So I say build the road.
When the Klondike Highway was built people said that it was an “ugly scar” on the mountain. How that attitude has changed in the ensuing years! Take our highway away, no way, we want to “Get out of Dodge,” as I’m sure the folks in J-town want to do. This “ugly scar” has largely disappeared. So I say build the road.
Access, access, access, this is the responsibility of government so we can have what we want. We need to get to Juneau and I mean all Alaskans, not just the thousands of tourists that want to go there in the summer months, but those who don’t have the means to fly or bring their car with them on the ferry. So I say build the road.
As far as avalanche danger, talk to the old-timers in Skagway about the numerous snow sheds that were on the WP&YR when it ran year-round, we never had problems with snow slides that a day or two didn’t solve. Hell was raised when the railroad closed for freight year-round but what did the people of Skagway do? They buckled down and found new ways of preserving their ways of life. Change is a very hard thing to embrace. But I still say build the road.
How many high country lakes were instantly accessed, how many skiing hills and mountains were accessed, how many hunting opportunities were opened, and how much berry picking taking of dead and down trees for fire wood and sport fishing in stream and river crossings has been added to people enjoying the fruits of the Klondike Highway. I say build the road.
Finally, the freedom to move from one place to another is priceless to people that have been denied that freedom by the few who want to keep the status quo. So lets charge into the future and as I say, LET’S BUILD THE ROAD.
Yours under the First Amendment.
Jim Richards