Council Now in Chambers

Oct. 5 marked the first time the Skagway City Council met in the new Council Chambers in the McCabe Building since completion of the renovation project and new addition. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Canadian hiker never found
Search and Rescue on for five days

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
By all accounts, it should never have happened to him. Charles Brian Gay, 28, of Montrose, British Columbia, a seasoned outdoorsman and geologist, spent one night at the Skagway Home Hostel, strapped on a fanny pack the morning of Sept. 26, and said he was going to hike to Upper Lake.
He never returned.
After five days of searching for him with more than 30 volunteers, helicopters and search dogs, Skagway Fire Chief Martin Beckner said they found not a trace.
“We found some footprints, but we’re not sure they’re an exact match of the shoe he was wearing,” Beckner said. “It’s a real mystery.”
Nancy Schave, hostel manager, Search and Rescue volunteer and emergency medical technician with the Skagway Fire Department, said that from what she could determine, Gay left without his overnight gear and possibly had a compass and global positioning system in his fanny pack – things a friend from Whitehorse told her that Gay usually carried with him.
“He spent one night at the hostel and the next morning he went hiking,” Schave said. “People were concerned that evening when he didn’t come back, but young men like that can go and find a lady and go off. But by the next morning we were very concerned and called it in to the Police Department.”
Gay had tickets for the evening ferry back to British Columbia after working in Whitehorse this summer.
That morning police officers visited bars and restaurants asking if anyone had seen the man, but turned up nothing.
The problem, Schave said, was that Gay had no distinguishing features: he looked similar to any clean-shaven man with short brown hair.
In one bar, people looked over the missing persons poster and said he looked like several people in town, but they could not remember seeing him in the bar the evening before.
Wayne Greenstreet, SAR planning and operations chief, said he planned the search by scouring all of the trails within walking distance of town.

Colin Aikman stands amid gear before joining other members of the team to search for Brian Gay on Sept. 27 from the Skagway Fire Hall, which served as headquarters. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

“Upper Lake, Sturgill’s, Icy Lake, all of the drainages, all the way down to Kasidaya Creek, the shoreline on the east side of the canal was covered by the harbor master, all of it was gone over,” he said. “We had as many as 10 teams out at one time.
“This is a trail system that people here in town take all the time. People don’t see that trail system as being dangerous, but it is.”
Greenstreet said the Alaska State Troopers will pay for the cost of the search.
As for speculation about what could have happened, Schave said it was impossible to figure.
“The thing I’d say is I wouldn’t be shocked by anything. There are limitless possibilities as to what happened,” she said.
Greenstreet said it would be hard to determine what happened because there was little or no real evidence to go on.
By all indications, he was a stable person, said Schave after talking to Gay’s family and his Whitehorse friend, so that ruled out any emotional reason for wanting to disappear.
He was also highly skilled in Bush survival.
“His job was to go out in the woods and do geological surveys for a private company where he was dropped off in any terrain, so I would consider him an expert,” said Schave.
At the Sept. 28 city council meeting, Councilmember Tim Bourcy said it might be a good idea in light of the incident that there be trail books at every trailhead for people to sign before they hike. Greenstreet thinks that’s a good idea. But he’d also like to get local hikers to look for any evidence of Gay when they’re on the trails.
“If anybody comes across anything, bring it back to the Fire Hall and mark the spot so we know where you found it,” he said.

New School Board seated after election

Frey, Hunz, Prop. 1 cruise to victory

The new Skagway School Board was sworn in at a special meeting Tuesday night and selected Michelle Carlson as its new president.
Carlson, a leader of the recent recall effort, was unopposed for a two-year seat on the board and garnered 200 votes in the Oct. 3 municipal election.
“I’m very excited,” Carlson said. “I think I’ve been preparing for it while I was waiting for the baby in Whitehorse. I think every board member has taken the office they feel most comfortable with.”
Carlson said since she was not employed that she has time to spend researching issues for the board and often goes back two years in the school board minutes.
She also said she’d be available to the public anytime for consultation.
Carlson was joined on the board by incumbent Don Hather and interim board member Dorothy Brady, who won three-year seats over Janilyn Heger and Lea Mauldin. Chris Ellis and Dawn Kilburn were elected to one-year seats over Virginia Long.
At the Oct. 10 meeting, the board accepted Kilburn’s resignation as part-time school librarian, so she could serve on the board. Former school board president Bruce Weber performed the swearing in ceremony.
The new board also chose Hather as its vice president, Kilburn as treasurer, Brady as clerk, and Ellis as the lone member.
There were few surprises in the municipal election for city council. Sitting Councilmembers J. M. Frey and Dave Hunz were unopposed, therefore they won.
After the Oct. 5 city council meeting which certified the election, Frey received 221 votes and Hunz, 216. A smattering of undeclared write-ins tallied 23 total votes.
The lone proposition on the ballot passed easily, allowing senior citizens in the urbanized downtown zone to have their property tax value for exemptions raised from $150,000 to $250,000.
After the election, the city council discussed the possibility of extending the exemption increase to all senior property owners, but will make a decision after getting more public comment at a later date.

Click here for complete election results.

Juneau votes for improved ferry service

Vote close but pro-roaders say they'll take a break

In a close advistory vote, 5,840 Juneau residents on Oct. 3 for supported enhanced ferry service, while 5,758 voted for a road from Juneau to Skagway.
The results puts a hold on the pro-con tussle between Haines, Skagway and Juneau – for a while.
“This generation of road proponents will fade away,” said leader of the pro-ferry movement Joe Geldhof in the Juneau Empire. “I'd say it's settled for the next 10 years.”
Jan Wrentmore, lobbyist for the City of Skagway, said the vote confirmed to her, that Juneau never did have broad-based support for the road.
Plus, she said, the pro-roaders have been so vocal it’s been hard to get funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
“Now it’s a great opportunity for Skagway, Haines and Juneau to work together on the Marine Highway,” she said.
Stan Selmer, member of the pro-ferry, grassroots organization Skagway-Haines Marine Access Coalition (SHMAC), said he too looks forward to working with Juneauites to improve ferry service. He also hoped the vote would convince legislators to fully fund the AMHS.
Some saw the vote as a nod toward keeping Juneau’s small-town feel.
“I think there's a fair number of people who really do like the idea of Juneau being isolated and don't see the capital move threat as real,” said pro-roader Murray Walsh, head of the Alaskans for Better Access, in the Juneau Empire. “We mounted as good a campaign as could be mounted.”
Pro-road mayoral candidate Jamie Parsons and council candidate Peggy Ann McConnochie lost, while Juneauites voted in Sally Smith, who is for better ferry service. Marc Wheeler, an organizer with the Southeast Conservation Council and staunchly anti-road, won a seat on the assembly.
Mayor John Mielke said he didn’t think the issue will ever go away.
“I don’t think anything is concluded on the subject,” he said. “It clearly supports what I have always thought, that Juneau wasn’t very clear on the road.”
He also thought some of the controversy could have been avoided by inclusion.
“If that Alaskans for Better Access was really Alaskans for better access, they would have had someone from Haines or Skagway sitting on that committee. All of the misunderstandings could have been avoided. But, hey, hindsight is 20-20.”

Expect to see more visitors next year
WP&YR experiences record numbers
With the new ships some cruise lines will sail next year and replacement of older vessels, Skagway should see an increase of about 50,000 cruise line passengers in 2001.
Royal Caribbean International’s new vessel, the Radiance of the Seas, and Carnival Cruise Ship Lines’ Carnival Spirit, which will replace the aging Jubilee, will make their maiden voyages here May 29 and May 27, respectively. The Infinity, replacing Celebrity’s Galaxy, will begin its stops on May 7.
The Japanese ship, the Asuka, will visit once on July 4 – that means a total of five ships in port that day.
But the good news is the town will have more “no ship” days on the weekends in 2001, said Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue.
There will be two no ship Saturdays in May, three in June, two in July, and two in August, and four in September.
“If you look at the schedule, it’s cool, because we have a lot of Saturdays off – every Saturday in September,” he said.

The adages posted in the window of the closed-for-the-season Lynch and Kennedy store and the empty streets indicate it is quiet time in Skagway. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Contrary to rumors, there will be no Disney cruise ship visiting next year. Sorry, no giant Mickey and Minnie Mouse in the middle of Broadway.
Skagway saw a total of 736,750 travelers this year, said Donahue.
Skagway Air took 5,734 up in the air; Glacier Bay Tours hosted 2,490; the Alaska Marine Highway floated 30,732; Wings of Alaska took 1.522; the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad took a record 32,436 people down the rails and into town from Fraser; Chilkat Cruises sailed off with 5,762; Allen Marine had a total of 1,458 on board; and the Klondike Highway had 94,925 laying rubber into town. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is waiting for final numbers from LAB and the Haines Water taxi.
“It was a record year for us,” said Tina Cyr, WP&YR director of marketing.
The total number of passengers riding the historic railroad rose to 303,245 for the 2000 season, up from 274,000 in 1999. In 1988, the railroad carried but 37,000 passengers when it reopened after a six-year closure.

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