January 16, 2014 | Volume 44, Number 2

Haines Junction mayor stops in

Haines Junction Mayor Mike Crawshay made an informal visit to Haines last week, attending the open house at the Chilkoot Indian Association office and speaking with Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott.

Crawshay, an auto mechanic shop owner who has lived in the village since 1987, said the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation is looking at the possibility of establishing a store in the village. Madley’s, a private-owned general store, closed two years ago.

A worker at the Champagne-Aishihik office this week confirmed the tribe was considering a store, but was unable to provide more details. Grocery sales there are limited to what’s available at gas stations. “People are used to driving (120 miles) to Whitehorse for groceries,” Crawshay said.

The Yukon Territorial government is the town’s largest employer, employing teachers, nurses and social workers. The First Nation is the second-largest employer. Its Whitehorse holdings include construction and glass companies and part ownership in the Yukon Inn.

Five-thousand cords of wood, including logs shipped to Haines, come out of the area annually, amounting to a $1 million industry, Crawshay said. About a half-dozen people work at the Dimok Timber sawmill, and a similar number are employed at Bear Creek Logging, he said.

Village Bakery, a popular eating spot for 20 years, closed in the fall with no plans of reopening, he said.

The village school has about 100 students in grades K-12.

The largest development in recent years was the dedication in June of the Da Ku Cultural Center, a 27,000-square-foot, $20 million facility that serves the First Nation and houses offices for Yukon Tourism and Parks Canada. The former Parks Canada office now serves as administrative center and park wardens’ residences.

About 800 people live in the village and 200 more in the surrounding area, Crawshay said. The population grows 1 or 2 percent a year, he said, including retiring government workers and older Canadians attracted to the Yukon’s relatively streamlined health care benefits. About a dozen new houses have been built in the past four years, mostly for government workers and First Nations families, he said.

The village is moving toward writing a strategic plan and has been wrestling with recycling and landfill issues, recently taking over recycling efforts from a non-profit organization there.

“If we really get on the ball with recycling, we won’t have much (waste) going into the ground,” delaying the need for establishing a new landfill, Crawshay said.

He joked that the Haines Borough should approach its Canadian neighbor about the municipality’s second Zamboni, and suggested a swap involving salmon. “We gave one (Zamboni) to the First Nation and all they had to do was ask.” As Zambonis are made in the United States, “the cross-border concerns would probably be minimal,” he said.

Crawshay spoke with railroad proponent Bill Kurz and Mayor Scott while in town. He has served on the village council 13 years.