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



The Haines Borough Assembly reversal last week of its tour moratorium at Chilkoot Lake reflects that the town hasn’t yet figured out its relationship with the cruise industry, if indeed it has one.

The premise that temporarily not allowing new tours in a small area would cause cruise companies to continue to not do what they’re already not doing (sending ships to Haines frequently) seemed a contortion of logic, twisted in part by the absence of testimony by cruise companies themselves.

Does a cruise company want a new canoe tour on Chilkoot Lake? Which company? Why does the company want such a tour? What does the community stand to gain or lose from such a tour? Could a moratorium on such a tour affect a decision to dock here? Who says?

Until questions like these are answered candidly, the town’s “relationship” with the cruise industry will be like a nerd’s infatuation with a beauty queen: unrequited, unfulfilled and mostly imagined.

It’s absurd to try to make decisions on tour permits based on supposition of how our actions might be interpreted by anonymous corporate executives in Miami. If Miami has an interest in Haines, Miami needs to express it. Until then, we must make decisions affecting our town based on words and actions of people who have names and faces and phone numbers.

The local cruise industry collapsed here in 2000 and the rumors and recriminations about who or what was to blame continued for years. A major issue at the time was conflict between expanding cruise-based tours and residents who felt those tours were starting to overrun the town.

Lee Ceverny, a U.S. Forest Service anthropologist who researched the collapse, concluded in a 2008 book: “In Haines, local officials and firm owners set the stage for tourism, but once the industry gained momentum, local actors had little ability to wield power or negotiate interests with multinational cruise lines.”

It appears not much has changed in 14 years. That’s too bad. Friction between the town and the cruise industry is probably inevititable; conflict isn’t.

Between its tourism department and new, executive-level positions added to its administration in recent years, the Haines Borough should have the time and manpower to start figuring this relationship out.

- Tom Morphet


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