Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Commentary

 


In last week’s paper, we asked several Haines Borough leaders their views on what constituted economic development. Ideas ranged from attracting new industry to improving local infrastructure. Here’s another: Keeping people around here in winter.

A sizeable portion of our population spends the dark months elsewhere. Could we entice them to stay longer? Reducing winter out-migration would help keep restaurants and stores open and making money, and would contribute to the town’s social well-being.

Much of our public business – including planning, budgeting and resolution of community conflicts – occurs in winter. Absence of residents during this work amounts to an unfortunate brain drain.

Facilities like a new community or recreation center might help hold people here when winter closes in, but they’re unlikely to be enough. Skagway has a rec center and gobs of money, but its school and wintertime economy continue to shrink.

A combination of year-round jobs and attractive amenities may be the key. Jobs spin off money that keeps shops open, the town vibrant and municipal coffers full. Public facilities for recreation and the arts may help keep around the “lifestyle” folks who enjoy Haines summers but have the cash or inclination to go south in winter.

Their money’s good, too.

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On its face, the community clean-up is for suckers. Good parents don’t pick up after their children, so why should responsible residents clean up after litterbugs?

The answer is that the cleanup doesn’t ask us to be parents. It asks us to be leaders and to make a statement that our town deserves better than having garbage strewn about. The more people who participate, the louder that message gets.

To make sure the message can’t be ignored, Haines Police need to be tough on litterbugs. A few publicized prosecutions would make scofflaws think twice about ditching their trash.

Events aimed at cleaning up trash, dog droppings and riverside refuse start Saturday. Showing up shows that you care.

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Last week’s action by the Haines Borough Planning Commission to classify two westward school lots for eventual sale helps advance this important discussion. Now it’s time for planners and visionaries wanting to save the entire property to respond by articulating their plan.

This discussion started in 2009, when assembly members got wrapped around the axle on the question of selling school property. They bowed to arguments that the future of these central lots should not be decided hastily, and they commissioned the $40,000 downtown plan to help conjure up alternatives.

That was three years ago. The only alternative developed to date was one by the Juneau architects who wrote the downtown plan, and that alternative is very similar to what the commission endorsed last week.

If residents want a recreation complex or central park spread over the eight school lots, they need to come forward with a plan. Time tends to linger in Haines, but it doesn’t stand still.