Duppy Ticaro hits the puck running as Monique Cordova guards him in a game of floor hockey at the Rec. Center. Photos by Dimitra Lavrakas
Community recreation, education set to rise despite director's resignation
School grant will aid development of both programs
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Recreational offerings are exploding in Skagway. Theyll go nuclear soon.
The citys Recreation Center has added new weight equipment and a schedule that includes spirited games of floor hockey, peaceful yoga sessions, gymnastics for antsy kindergarten and pre-school kids, and roller blading to music for teens.
The Community Education Program at the Skagway School is is in a hiatus after the recent resignation of its part-time director, Bill Reasoner, for personal reasons. He had no comment for this story, but there is concern among kids that they have lost gym time in the shift to eductation programs by Community Ed.
Theres a sewing class, but its pretty much running on its own momentum, said Superintendent James Telles.
Marie Elena Saldi practices the bridge in the gymnastic class for youngters.
That should change quickly with the addition of a full-time Community Ed. directors position to be advertised in the coming weeks. The person hired will be funded by a new grant and will coordinate both the Rec. Center programs with the Community Ed. program, Telles said.
A $300,000, three-year 21st Learning Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education that the school received in January will go to community education and recreation programs.
They (Rec. Center) had just ordered weights, and I questioned if we should order weights, said Telles. I met with the Community Education Board and decided it would be an educational program.
The transition at the school from community recreation to education took place over the Christmas break, a good time to ease into its new identity, said Telles.
We had two programs that were really competing with each other, he said.
Telles said there were so many talented people in town who could offer classes for residents.
The winters are long and dark, and it gives people time to spend time with other people, Telles said.
Hes trying to find distance learning programs for residents that coincide with Alaska time.
Were looking to do some advanced placement classes and college classes for next year, he said.
He points to the new computer lab next to the schools library as a great resource to teach community members basic computer skills and the wonders of the Internet.
Over at the Recreation Center, Director Chelsea Nilsen has been busy mounting programs that offer a wide range of physical activities for all ages. She went full-time on the job Oct. 1, and full-bore ever since.
Yoga instructor Pat Noble leads an early morning class.
A new universal gym, hand weights, bench press, step platforms, and exercise mats now fill the former Little Dippers Daycare room.
Theres still rollerblading on Fridays, except when theres an activity at the school, said Nilsen.
Nilsen said shes always looking for volunteers to help supervise activities and help out around the center. Right now, shes a one-person operation, but the city may hire a part-timer.
If you volunteer, the activity is free, she said.
Activities cost $2 per activity or $30 a month. No family fee level has been decided on yet, she said.
Two of the old bleachers have been removed to make way for a rock-climbing wall.
Its a huge asset for this community, especially for kids who need to learn to be safe when climbing on their own, she said. This activity helps people overcome their fear of heights or the I cant do it fear.
Chelsea Nilsen, Rec. Center director, tries out the spanking new universal gym.
Nilsen thinks the center will be an attraction in the summer as much as in the winter.
Last fall, the city re-paved the basketball court, allowing it to be used as an ice skating rink. But, because of the warm weather, that has hardly happened.
Activity schedules are updated weekly and are posted around town and printed bimonthly in this newspaper.
AIDEA wants ore terminal resurrected
White Pass wants to be involved in gasline effort
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS and JEFF BRADY
Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Executive Director Bob Poe said his agency is more than willing to work on reviving use of the Skagway Ore Terminal for the gas pipeline project or any other idea for that matter.
But as far as the ore facility is concerned, its old and has some corrosion, he said, confirming what Skagway Economic Development Commission Dierctor Candice Wallace reported at the citys first Gas Pipeline meeting last month.
The ore facility is a 23-30-year-old facility and it hasnt had any shipments through it for three years, said Poe. The ore has sulfates and sulfites that when mixed with water vapor have caused corrosion on part of the inside of the building.
The agency owes $14 million on the facility, and it wants to see it make some money.
Were very interested in seeing it being used, he said. If its proposed for covered storage or any other use, well take a very hard look at it.
Poe was cautious about pursuing its use for the proposed gasline project, however.
Youre trying to do things in anticipation of something happening, youre taking a risk, he said. One of the challenges Skagway will have if it positions itself as a transit hub, there wont be time to move. Now is the time to look at it. In any kind of investment, like materials transit, you have to look at what the business is and what the risk is.
The ore facility, he said, is an economic infrastructure thats just sitting there.
It also has a complicated lineage that goes back more than 30 years.
White Pass controls the ore dock and adjacent tidelands, which it leases from the City of Skagway. Twenty-three years are left on the lease. The terminal building and ship loader, which originally were built by White Pass in 1968, were upgraded after being sold to AIDEA in 1990 as part of a $25 million bond package approved by the Alaska Legislature. But the building and ship loader saw sporadic use during unsuccessful ventures by Curragh and Anvil Range to revive the Faro, Yukon mines over the past two decades. Last year, White Pass lengthened the ore dock so it could easily handle two large cruise ships, and improved access to the dock for trains, tour buses and pedestrians.
The city has contacted White Pass about reopening the lease, so it can explore more options for economic development on those tidelands.
Gary Danielson, White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad spokesman, said the railroad sees the ore facility as a great asset to the city, because it can be used for so many things.
He was unable to attend the citys first gas pipeline meeting because of illness, but said White Pass wants to be involved.
Were certainly willing to work with the companies involved and have had discussions with the Canadian Government and the Premier (Pat Duncan of the Yukon Territory), he said.
He said he thought that Skagway would be a trans-shipment area rather than a staging area. He also counsels caution.
I think its great that people want to plan for the future of the pipeline, but I think we should be careful and see if its approved or not, he said.
As far as the condition of the facility, Danielson said he hadnt heard from AIDEA that it was in bad shape.
We had not heard from AIDEA that the building was in such great disrepair that they were thinking of tearing it down, he said. If they said that, it would be nice to know who said it so we could talk to them.
WP&YR, he said, is putting together a publication on the port of Skagway describing all it has to offer to the tourist and freight industries.
The City of Skagway has contacted White Pass about reopening the 1968 tidelands lease so it can explore more economic development options. For example, one of the issues on the table is what would happen to the lease if the railroad were sold, even though White Pass has insisted it is not for sale.
One of the issues we are trying to overcome is their ability to sell the railroad and not having us have a say in the continuation of the lease, said Councilmember Stan Selmer at the Jan. 25 city council meeting.
Aside from having right of refusal if a sale occurs, other points are environmental language and addressing the percentage of value in determining lease payments, added City Manager Bob Ward.
White Pass sent its response to the city late last week and it was being distributed to council members. A special City Council work session on the lease was originally scheduled for Feb. 7, but it was postponed since there would not have been enough council members present to justify a possible executive session, Ward said.
UPDATE: The next Gas Pipeline Committee meeting will be on Feb. 14 at 3:30 p.m. at the McCabe building council chambers. It will be followed at 6 p.m. by a special meeting of the Skagway City Council on the tidelands lease. The only item on the agenda is an executive session to discuss the lease.
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