1976-77 – Congress passes national park legislation in June 1976 and superintendent and historical architect arrive. A temporary visitor center opens in the old depot, and the park is dedicated in Skagway in June 1977. The park includes four components: Skagway unit, Dyea-Chilkoot unit, White Pass unit, and Seattle-Pioneer Square unit. City forms Historic District Commission.
1978-1979 – Modern Skagway News starts up after North Wind retires. Taiya River threatens old Native cemetery in Dyea, and first story the paper covers is controversial removal of remains by National Park Service to an area near the Slide Cemetery. Klondike Highway is punched through to border in September. John Edwards and Bob Bissell are the first to cross, with aid of winches. More locals follow until rough road closes for winter. News merges with Haines paper in March 1979. Highway officially opens in spring. Final cost: $14.4 million on U.S. side and $12.2 million in Canada. In July, a scary fire destroys Sourdough Inn, Igloo Bar and a drug store, but SVFD prevents it from spreading through Historic District. New city barge facility/ferry terminal completed.
1980-81 – State-supported live satellite TV arrives along with public radio on KHNS. Trucks roll on highway temporarily after railroad bridge knocked out by rock slide. Park backs off plans to implement Dyea building codes after getting heat from land owners and National Inholders Association. Skagway becomes base for Disney’s “Never Cry Wolf” crew filming on White Pass. Ken Kesey works on project and later sets novel Sailor Song in fictional Alaska town invaded by movie crew. Dump pigs and Bigger Hammer Marching Band are mentioned in book. City hires tourism director to promote Skagway. Fish hatcheries started at Burro Creek and school.
1982 – Faro mines shut down in spring, and railroad loses 70 percent of its freight revenue. This doesn’t stop the return of White Pass Steam Engine No. 73 and the Skagway News returns as semi-monthly that summer. Optimism fades in fall as White Pass suspends rail operations on Oct. 8, sending Skagway into a deep depression. Unions picket and stop White Pass in Haines when company tries to truck freight to Yukon on Haines Highway.
1983-85 – White Pass announces it will not operate, even for summers. Winter unemployment estimated at 70-80 percent. Newspaper switches to monthly in winter. First running of Klondike Road Relay. Oil-rich state helps Skagway with $8.5 million to construct a new school. Skagway lands Alaska Visitors Association convention and sees increase in number of cruise ships docking to more than 100. Historic dock deal reached between city, state and White Pass to improve dock facilities to allow more cruise ships. Park’s first restoration project, the old White Pass railroad depot and administration building, is completed and opened for the park’s visitor center and offices. Broadway gets “historic pavement” to cut down on dust. Garden Club forms and establishes competition, Order of Eastern Star starts annual flower and garden show. Voters approve land sale along Dyea Road and houses spring up on hillside. Number of visitors tops 200,000.
1986-87 – Curragh, Inc. buys Anvil mine and announces it wants to truck concentrate to Skagway. Mayor Bill Feero breaks a tied city council in February 1986 and city requests state to open highway year-round. Gov. Bill Sheffield and Yukon government Leader Tony Penikett sign historic agreement in April. Trucks operated by Lynden roll in June. White Pass brings back container ship and gets into trucking too. Number of cruise ships surpasses 200. Park finishes restoring two more buildings in 1986-87 and leases them to private businesses. City establishes Centennial Committee in 1987 and park completes restoration of Moore cabin for its 100th anniversary. First Buckwheat Ski Classic joins Windfest as winter event. Prospective railroad buyers appear on scene and say railway would be a viable tourist operation. Skagway’s small cross-country team wins school’s first state title. Tensions rise on waterfront as the Lynden-operated ore terminal replaces striking workers, who fail to organize union and abandon picket lines in new year.
1988 – On March 1, White Pass President Marvin Taylor announces the company has reached agreement with its unions to reopen the railroad for a summer tourist operation with 3-hour round-trips to the summit. Whistles blow all over town as employees return to work. First train operates with great fanfare on May 12. News goes back to twice-monthly year-round. Alaska State Garden Club holds annual convention in Skagway, and the city is officially proclaimed “Garden City of Alaska” by Gov. Steve Cowper. Year ends on scary note, as high lead levels are recorded in Skagway from past ore movement. School children are tested by public health officials, and blood levels are below normal.
1989-90 – Massive $6 million clean-up by “supersuckers” paid by Curragh and White Pass along waterfront, railroad and highway through town. Battle lines drawn on waterfront as White Pass proposes Broadway Dock west of ferry terminal, and Curragh tries to convince city to lease land for new ore dock and terminal east of ferry terminal. City approves White Pass project, sends Curragh project to voters. Election called off after Curragh polls community and finds little support. Curragh and White Pass begin to work together to improve existing ore terminal, leased from White Pass, on city tidelands. As voters are poised again to approve a lease to the state’s Alaska Industrial and Export Authority (AIDEA), White Pass announces it will sell the terminal to AIDEA, which wins Legislative approval for $25 million to buy and upgrade the terminal. Broadway dock opens in 1990. Ships have some trouble maneuvering in wind and ore dock is damaged. River rises to near flood stage, prompting push for more flood control. Remains of old Pullen House torn down after long-abandoned relic deemed unsafe. School’s Pullen Creek hatchery program receives national award.
1991-92 – Ore terminal operates through Curragh strike in Yukon. Island Princess and Regent Sea collide in bay on way into port; miraculously no one is seriously injured. Ships are repaired and return later that summer. New rules for harbor: ships must arrive an hour apart. City does emergency flood control in September 1991, gets state’s attention. Number of visitors tops 300,000 in 1992 during 50th anniversary of the building of the Alaska Highway. Reunions highlight summer, along with World War Two-themed AVA convention.
1993-94 – Curragh wins $29 million loan from Yukon Government to stay alive, then files Chapter 11. Terminal closes. City pushes for winter highway funding, with or without mine, and get assurances from state and territorial leaders. Good year for filming on pass: TV show “Due South” in spring and movie “Snowbound: Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story” in fall 1993. Yukon log shipments roll to Skagway on highway in spring 1994. Skagway Medical Corp. formed after members split off from Haines. It affiliates with Bartlett Hospital in Juneau. “Good Morning America” visits in May. White Pass announces plans to revamp and lengthen its Railroad Dock but is plagued by three fuel spills from its pipeline, the last occurring in October, leading to federal charges against two company officials. The company closes the line and sells its fuel business. A worse disaster befalls White Pass a month later when the dock collapses, sending a tidal wave across the bay, uprooting the ferry dock and spinning it into the Broadway dock. One worker is killed. Disaster declared by Gov. Hickel. Damage to state dock and small boat harbor exceeds $1 million. White Pass vows to rebuild dock in time for 1995 cruise season.
1995-96 – New Anvil Range Corp. buys Faro mine. First cruise ship lands at new Railroad Dock on May 30. Adventure tour craze explodes with new operators and tours in Skagway and Dyea, and city approves more helicopter landings on glaciers. Voters approve extending sales tax to tours and transportation. RCMP Musical Ride performs on beach for Mounties’ 100th anniversary. Visitor numbers surpass 400,000. Main part of old school is torn down after 10 years of disrepair, but gym is saved for future recreation center. New border station opens on highway. Ore trucks and ships return in the fall. City elects first female mayor, Sioux Plummer. In 1996, White Pass officials are indicted, tried and convicted by a jury for their involvement in the 1994 spill. They appeal: one conviction stands, the other is tossed out. Skagway connects to the Internet. Weak metal prices plague Anvil Range.
1997-98 – Cominco purchases Anvil Range shares, but mine shuts and ore terminal closes in April 1997. Ore terminal reopens in fall after mine opens again, only to close on Christmas after Anvil Range files for protection. However, over next two years, city swells with pride during Klondike Gold Rush Centennial celebrations including “Ton of Gold” reenactment, Dyea to Dawson races, dedication of Klondike International Historical Park, and the first-day issue of a Klondike postage stamp. New state license plates also show gold rush trail scene. White Pass also begins three years of centennial events. The company is spun off from Russell Metals/Federal Industries and becomes part of new Tri-White Corp (later renamed ClubLink). School and organizations celebrate 100th birthdays, and Alaska Power and Telephone’s Goat Lake Hydro project is completed. Skagway is 100 percent hydro and sending power to Haines too. Forest fire burns 85 acres above Dyea, threatening Chilkoot, before being stopped by local and state fire crews. City takes over management of Dyea Flats from Park Service. State releases Juneau Access study, favoring either a highway up the east side of Lynn Canal to Skagway or using daily fast ferries. Skagway leans toward better ferries, while Haines is adamantly opposed to a new road link. Juneau is split.
1999-2000 – Skagway Centennial Park is completed at First and Broadway, featuring a statue by Chuck Buchanan depicting a Tlingit packer leading a gold rush prospector up the trail. White Pass and state settle suit over 1994 dock damage, with railroad to pay $1.875 million. Skagway is 16th most visited cruise destination in the world with nearly 450 cruise calls. As visitor count approaches 750,000, city looks harder at dealing with impacts. Police, fire department/EMS and clinic expand staff. City snuffs “shuttle wars” by offering service to just one company, and then forces independent tour operators to use a single broker. Economic development director is hired, tackles “quality of life” issues to keep locals here in winter. Rec. Center improvements completed, director hired, and use expanded. The rest of the town’s streets are paved. Like the rest of the world, Skagway enters the new millennium with no bugs in its computers, and joins the cell phone age. Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles delivers decision on Juneau Access in early 2000, favoring fast ferries, but has trouble pushing ferry construction through Legislature. National Bank of Alaska is sold to Wells Fargo, which was here during the gold rush. McCabe Bldg. is restored for city centennial amdist construction delays, much like 100 years ago, and the city holds a big birthday party outside in June before it moves in. WP&YR celebrates its centennial in July with great fanfare in Carcross, hinting at a return some day. A Klondike gold dredge is brought to Skagway as a tourist attraction. Yukon abandons dock plans, but huge airport expansion is completed.
2001-2006 – In 2001, the city explores building a new dock to handle freight for the proposed natural gas pipeline, but there’s resistance because the dock would need cruise ships to pay bonding costs. The concern is that Skagway, population 862 in the 2000 census, is close to its summer cruise visitor capacity, and existing docks can be improved for a pipe haul to the Yukon, if it comes. Skagway enjoys a great summer season until Sept. 11, when virtually all traffic stops for a few days after the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, but the ships and planes returned and more visitors come in 2002. Sen. Frank Murkowski is elected governor and vows to build a road from Juneau to Skagway. He restarts EIS process. In 2003, WP&YR adds on to Railroad Dock to handle bigger ships, but Skagway’s industrial position is dealt a blow when corrosion at the ore terminal makes it unsafe and the state tears it down. However, the city asks that the site be preserved for future industrial use, so a new terminal may be built if mining rebounds. Residents follow the war in Iraq on new satellite dishes. In 2004, despite pressure from a pro-road movement, the city sticks to its support of better ferries for improving Juneau Access, and voters agree by a 62-38 percent margin. Meanwhile, the state’s new fast ferry Fairweather starts running but has problems. A welcome reprieve from winter comes when the cast of “The Big White” shows up in spring 2004 to film on the snowy pass. The stars fit right in as Robin Williams bikes around town, and Holly Hunter rings bar bells. The dark comedy goes straight to DVD with mixed reviews, but its northern premiere in Skagway is a hit. AB Hall restoration, Dyea Road widening, Skagway River flood control, Broadway dock extension, and a new seawall/seawalk keep construction crews busy. State backs off road to Skagway because it would have to cross the National Historic Landmark boundary. When the final EIS is released in 2006, it supports a road from Juneau to Katzehin, with a shuttle ferry to Haines and Skagway, but it is stalled by a law suit.
2007-2012 -The railroad has a record year in 2007, welcomes back Engine 69, and returns to the Yukon with scheduled service to Carcross. Visitor numbers peak at nearly 1.278 million. Rasmuson Foundation acquires the Rapuzzi Collection for local museums. A decade-long battle by Skagway to become a borough wins approval by the state’s Local Boundary Commission after an emotional hearing here, and voters ratify it on June 5, 2008. The Municipality of Skagway is the state’s first, first-class borough. AIDEA starts work on a smaller ore terminal in 2007 after reaching an agreement with Sherwood Copper (now Capstone), owner of a mine near Minto, Yukon. Ore trucks roll down the highway that fall, and ships come in monthly to carry away the ore. Other mines look at Skagway, and the community forms a port commission which promotes the “Skagway Advantage” for shipping minerals and even pipe for a future gas pipeline. Kasidaya hydro project opens 3 miles down Taiya Inlet. Former childhood resident Sarah Palin first becomes governor in 2006, then vice presidential candidate in 2008, but ultimately resigns in 2009 amid fame, secures book and TV deals. Skagway benefits from a statewide cruise tax in 2007 to the tune of about $4 million a year for various projects. Guinness Book of World Records certifies Skagway for “most eggs tossed” on July 4, 2008, and Broadway is named one of 10 Great Streets in the Great American Places program in 2009. Our girls’ basketball team goes undefeated and wins the 2010 state 2A title, and then repeats in 2011! The new E.A. and Jenny Rasmuson Health Center, funded by several grants and matched with a local bond issue, is completed in 2010, and the new census records a population of 920. Bellekeno mine begins shipping silver from Keno, Yukon to Skagway. Others court the port.
2013-2017 – In 2013 the borough and White Pass begin negotiations for a new tidelands lease that would allow ore dock and terminal expansion with state and city funds. After two years, a 30-year lease extension is presented to voters in 2015 and fails by a large margin, with opponents saying it’s time to prepare for municipal takeover when the lease ends in 2023. The rush to expand the terminal slows as Bellekeno closes and Minto makes cutbacks. Visitor numbers rebound with advent of huge 3,000-passenger ships, and a floating dock is added at the Railroad Dock. Another float is needed by 2018, so port planning proceeds. New Gov. Bill Walker in 2016 rejects the Juneau Access road option due to lack of support and the state budget shortfall. Restored Jeff. Smith’s Parlor opens for centennial of National Park Service. Most here call themselves Skagwegians, as our population nearly triples in summer to deal with more than a million visitors.
– Compiled by Gov. W.J. Brady