Julene Fairbanks of the “Dead Salmon Heads” hands off to 10-year-old Delani Moe at the start of Stage 9 of the Klondike Trail of ‘98 Road Relay Sept. 9. Read about the Skagway youth movement in our Relay and Cross-Country coverage. Jeff Brady

OCT. 4 ELECTION FORUM: Candidates and Pool Proposition

Court favors Skagway in borough appeal

LBC wrongly imposed size restriction

Alaska Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins issued a ruling Sept. 20 stating that the state’s Local Boundary Commission wrongly denied Skagway’s petition for borough formation in August 2002 by improperly imposing a size requirement.
In a 22-page ruling that arrived at City Hall Wednesday, Collins wrote that the Local Boundary Commission did not have regulations in place to make a ruling based on the size of the area.
The court said the LBC imposed its own “fundamental principles” by denying the petition, in effect making 443.5 square miles the standard, slightly more than Skagway’s area. In doing so, the LBC denied the city and any other petitioner due process.
“This new standard, if it is to be adopted, must be done according to law, following the public process provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act,” the judge wrote.
The judge remanded the Skagway petition to the LBC for reconsideration, but will not require a new hearing unless the commission “intends to apply new legal standards to its decision.”
City officials were digesting the ruling at press time, but Mayor Tim Bourcy called it great news.
“Size was one of the issues (in denying the petition), and they adopted policy about us for future borough decisions, which they should not have done,” Bourcy said.
“It will mean a lot at the statewide level,” he continued. “It’s a pretty huge victory for us.”
The city has been trying to form its own borough for years to avoid being incorporated into the larger Haines Borough in the future, as proposed in the state’s Model Borough Boundaries Plan. – JB

Tourism director ready to walk

Buckwheat Donahue’s ‘Heartbeat Trail’ begins Oct. 1

Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue made his final reports to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and City Council last week and received well-wishes for his upcoming Heartbeat Trail walk and paddle.
Donahue leaves Skagway Saturday morning and will commence his walk in Miami, Fla. a week later on Oct. 1. Covering an average of 25 miles a day, the walk will take him through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Brtish Columbia, and the Yukon.
If all goes well, after 5,475 miles of walking, he’ll stop at Johnson’s Crossing on the Alaska Highway next May or early June, and switch to a canoe. From there he’ll paddle the length of the Teslin and Yukon Rivers – with friends joining him on various stages over the summer – emerging at Kotlik, Alaska, where he will trade the canoe for a sea kayak, and paddle around Norton Sound to Nome.
Then he flies to Whitehorse and will walk home to Skagway a year from now, via the Chilkoot Trail. It’s all being done in an effort to raise money to equip the Skagway clinic with better heart-saving equipment.
Donahue started walking to improve his health after a heart episode about two years ago. The walks started around town, progressed into weekend Dyea Road treks, and then he walked from Skagway to Whitehorse, and on to Dawson City last winter. That gave him the idea to go much further, on a walk across the continent. It took some convincing, but last spring he received permission from his board and the city to give him a year’s leave of absence.

Donahue shows CVB members the shoe that got him to Dawson. He’ll have many more pairs for his Miami-Nome trek. JB

Donahue’s quest has made the rounds of several regional publications, including an Alaska magazine story that leads off his website – He also will be featured next month in USA Today’s weekend magazine.
“Be safe,” said CVB chair Bruce Schindler at a board meeting last Friday. “I’m looking forward to keeping track.”
Donahue will send e-mails every few days for the website, hosted by PR Services in Whitehorse. The News will highlight his progress in a box commencing next issue, and will catch up with him on the road in early November, and on the Yukon River next June.
Along the way, Donahue will give the Robert Service poetry shows he does for cruise ship audiences, charging his normal fee which will go to Skagway’s Dahl Memorial Clinic. Any extra donations will go to Hurricane Katrina victims or other worthy causes identified by organizers in 35-40 venues along the way, he said. All the time, he will be promoting Skagway and Alaska-Yukon, passing out Skagway DVDs as sales tools.
He has drawn corporate support from cruise lines RCCL and Holland America, as well as Tourism Yukon and Sport Yukon, but said the pre-walk fund-raising could have gone better.
“There’s lots of competition out there for these kinds of dollars,” he said, “even in my own community.”
Schindler said he hopes support will build along the walking route.
Donahue will look good. Most of his walking clothing and gear are being donated, including all the shoes he wants from New Balance, courtesy of a regional representative who was reading the Alaska Magazine story when Klothes Rush owner Duff Ray called.
Donahue told the rep. he had been walking in $60 a pair shoes. “He talked me out of these and got me some fancier $150 ones, ordered to my width,” he said.
He plans to replace the shoes every 400 miles. Otherwise he’ll carry all his clothes in a 35-pound backpack fitted with a hydration system and satellite radio.
Donahue said he will study various community events along the way and bring back some new ideas for Skagway. He’ll pass on information to interim director Kristin Wilkinson, who has met with him and attended last week’s meeting.
Schindler said he wants to take advantage of her skills over the next year. Wilkinson starts Oct. 15 and will begin by helping the board complete its goals and objectives and signage plan.
“Buckwheat, I feel we are sending you off right,” Schindler said. “I’m jazzed.”
Donahue thanked Schindler and the board for their “good words - it means a lot.”
If you’d like to help send Buckwheat off as well, there is a gathering today at the Fish Company from 4-6 p.m.

UPDATE – Photos from the party now posted on the Heartbeat Trail website:

More than $13,300 and counting raised for Hurricane Katrina victims

The Community Benefit for Hurricane Katrina Relief raised an astounding $12,338 in just three hours, announced Mayor Tim Bourcy at last week’s City Council meeting.
The mayor thanked fellow members of the Council for “being true multi-taskers” by flipping burgers and serving food donated by local restaurants at the event, held on a beautiful night at Jewell Gardens on Sept. 8.
About 350 people attended, Bourcy said, and he read off a list of people and businesses (see letters) who contributed to making the event a success. A check is being sent to the Salvation Army.
“I think it’s a tribute to this community and the way it steps up and volunteers,” he said.

Magician Doug Anderson, who works Princess ships and overnights in Skagway regularly, shows Avi Vogel the Chinese ring trick at the Community Benefit for Katrina Relief. JB

In addition, the Red Onion last Sunday night raised $1,000 for the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund during its “From Broadway to Bourbon Street” feed and show. Several of the performers had family in New Orleans.
Emblem Club Katrina Relief cans are filling up around town as the summer visitor season draws to a close this Saturday. The News will have a report on the money raised from that fund-raiser next issue, in addition to a report on how one former Skagway resident escaped the hurricane, and why another resident is going down there next month to help. – JB

‘Morgan Reed Pass’ sign goes up on 40th anniversary of road start

Klondike Road Relay runners and support crews passed an odd-looking sign near the border on Sept. 9. For those who noticed, it was a glimpse down memory lane and a tribute to a great Skagway man.
The sign stated “Morgan Reed Pass” and was an impromptu tribute put up by a man who fired up a bulldozer to start the highway’s construction almost 40 years ago to the day on the Canadian side.
John Watt was a Whitehorse City Council member in the early 1960s and had been pushing for the road to be completed to Skagway for several years. On Sept. 8, 1965, he called up the CBC and the editor of the Yukon News and told them to bring their tape recorders and cameras to Carcross.
Four miles south of town, Watt fired up his bulldozer and started knocking down trees on a route that friend Johnny Johns had scoped out. The “illegal as hell” move got good press, even down here in Skagway, where the “Road to Whitehorse Committee” donated $100 for Watt’s fuel.
Two local politicians, State Rep. Morgan Reed and Mayor Malcolm Moe, also came to Whitehorse to lobby. Despite opposition from the White Pass railroad, they pressed on with the support of the longshoremen and local businesses.
That was just a start. Reed worked the Alaska Legislature as the House Finance Chair, eventually getting funding for the road’s construction in the 1970s. The South Klondike Highway was completed in September 1978.
“Basically, it was a grass roots movement that got it going,” Watt said on a visit to Skagway after he put up the signs – one on each side of the border. “Morgan worked on both sides of the border,” he added.

John Watt pays tribute to the late Morgan Reed by erecting a sign at the summit on Sept. 9 to honor the Skagway legislator who pushed for highway funding. Donna Watt

“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Later we can get a bus load of bureaucrats to do it officially.”
Watt has the support of Whitehorse Mayor Ernie Bourassa, and this week wrote a letter to the Skagway City Council asking that the highway pass be named for Reed, who died a decade ago.
“Morgan Reed inspired us in Canada as well as you in the USA to keep working to make this road a reality,” Watt wrote.
“I placed a sign on the summit as a brief reminder of the 40th anniversary of the start of the building of the road. I took pictures and gave copies to Mrs. Reed and your newspaper. I think I did the right thing as a reminder of a brief moment in history and pay tribute to a great American.”
A move to name the west White Pass after late railroad president Marvin Taylor fizzled a few years ago, but Reed, with his stronger connection to the highway, may have a better chance.


TEAM WORK – Local students have been learning cold water survival skills this month in the Skagway River from instructors Colin Aiken and Dick Rice, contracted through the Physical Education Program grant. Above, Rice teaches Jayce Ellis to ride down a river on her back to keep her legs from hitting rocks. Once you are close to shore, then you can turn over and swim to safety. - Jeff Brady


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