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

Public hearings for tour permits are helpful


February 27, 2020 | View PDF

It’s unfortunate that the borough’s Tourism Advisory Board, a government-sponsored industry group, is considering removing the requirement for a public hearing on new commercial tours.

Public hearings are appropriate and helpful because tours use our public roads, public parks, public neighborhoods, public waterways, and public spaces, like riverside pullouts. Too many tours in one spot, or the wrong kinds of tours in the right spot, create potential problems that can be – and have been – identified and resolved in advance through the public hearing process.

Hearings also serve to introduce a new tour to the public, letting everyone know what’s coming and what to expect.

The community learned this lesson in the late 1990s when daily cruise ship dockings prompted creation of all kinds of tours. Most were professional and appropriate. Some were not. Others were just problematic, like draft-horse wagon tours that backed up traffic downtown.

As a result, a tourism board balanced by members from the public and non-tourism businesses developed a requirement for a public hearing for new tour permits. The hearing process is not onerous, political or inappropriate. It’s nearly always a gentle, helpful review and a chance for members of the public to voice questions, concerns and suggestions.

It’s worked well. How many tours have ever been denied through this process? One?

That this is being considered should motivate us to make one change: Restore a needed balance to our town’s public tourism board by designating seats for citizens and businesses not affiliated with the industry.

Tom Morphet


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