Traditional Council hosts sustainability summit

Making small changes for big impacts was the theme of a recent sustainability summit held by the Skagway Traditional Council in the last weekend of April.

“Our overall goal or mission was to engage the residents of Skagway in active discussions and hands-on practices, kind of becoming a catalyst to encourage the community to be more sustainable,” said Stephanie Palmer, program assistant with the Traditional Council.

A number of events were hosted between April 27-29, including a canning class, a reusable grocery bag sewing effort, seminars on how to reduce waste and a showing of short films focused on conservation.

Skagway herbalist Emily Grace Willis taught an introductory course about cultivated and wild medicinal plants in the region, and Sockeye Cycle Co. hosted a bike repair clinic for two hours, teaching the basics of bicycle repair and maintenance.

The goal of cutting down on waste can be daunting, Palmer said, but the hope is that showing a number of small ways to cut down on waste will have a snowball effect.

“It’s really not as hard as you think it’s going to be,” Palmer said.

Two of the events were led by Sarah Lewis of the Juneau Cooperative Extension office, one of which was a waste-free kitchen class.

“All these things she [Lewis] talked about, she was like ‘we’ve all heard them, they’re all [things like] bring reusable bags to the grocery store,’” Palmer said. “That’s one thing that everyone in this town could easily do.”

The sustainability summit spawned from a trio of events held by the Traditional Council in recent months. One of these showed how to make homemade toothpaste and laundry detergent, and another taught participants how to make reusable wraps made from cloth and beeswax, used as an alternative to saran wrap.

From those do-it-yourself nights, Palmer said the idea came to hold the weekend-long summit.

Overall Palmer said the atmosphere was “super-positive,” that the attendees asked good questions and had constructive ideas for the organizers and speakers.

“It seems like there is a need or want to learn, and we can hopefully provide more classes and information in the future,” Palmer said.

Parking resolution approved

After a string of committee and Borough Assembly meetings numbering in the double digits, a much-debated resolution making changes to parking on downtown Broadway has been passed.

Before the assembly approved the resolution with a 5-1 vote – with Assembly Member Dan Henry against – several amendments were made to the parking plan.

The general layout of parking in the amended resolution is as follows:

Side streets from Seventh through Second have two-hour parking on the north and south sides, with special exceptions made for loading and S.M.A.R.T. bus zones in several areas.

Parking on Broadway is a little less standardized, with a mix of 20-minute spots, loading and S.M.A.R.T. zones, a number of one-hour parking zones on both sides of the street near the Sweet Tooth Café.

At the head of the assembly’s discussion on the resolution, Mayor Monica Carlson said the top reason the subject of parking had been raised was one of public safety, and to prepare the downtown area for increasing numbers of cruise ship passengers. The assembly had “proposed some bold changes” for the best interests of Skagway, Carlson said.

“We need to alleviate congestion on Broadway,” Carlson said. “We’ll have more cars, we’ll have more buses, we’ll have finite space, and visitor parking is taken up by employees.”

Matthews Creek officially named

The Borough Assembly recently approved a resolution naming the creek running through the Nahku Bay Conservation Area as Matthews Creek.

The resolution states that he Taiya Inlet Watershed Council had designated the creek as Matthews Creek in its 2007 stream assessment, and the creek had been called such in the very recently-approved uplands management plan for the Nahku Bay Conservation Area.

The resolution makes the name official.

Assembly Member Orion Hanson said the Nahku Bay Property Oversight Committee had tried to honor both “the Tlingit heritage, and the Matthews family that homesteaded there and preserved this property for us now.”

“It seems as though just naming the creek would be a good way to honor that permanently,” Hanson said.   

Náxk’w – or the anglicized “Nahku” – is the traditional name for the bay, meaning Little Harbor. When the beach portion of the conservation area management plan came to a vote in spring 2017, the assembly received a petition from the Skagway Traditional Council to name the bay in a way that would preserve the Tlingit name.

The assembly approved the naming of Matthews Creek 5-1. During the public hearing for the resolution, resident Mavis Henricksen spoke out on the issue.

“I’d just as soon stay with Nahku,” Henricksen said, adding she has an issue with the way many places in Skagway are named. Henricksen proposed that the assembly create a naming committee.

“Get yourself a committee, and have names suggested to the committee, and why they picked these names,” Henricksen.

Warning signs for off-leash dogs discussed

Following a piece of correspondence sent in on the issue, the Borough Assembly has requested signs for the trailheads at Yakutania point and Lower Dewey Lake alerting visitors they are entering off-leash areas.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I would also like to see, in response to this as well, a sign or signs at Seven Pasture stating that it is a leash law area, because almost no dogs at Seven Pasture are leashed,” Assembly Member Tim Cochran said. “And that is a leash law area.”

Assembly Member Orion Hanson agreed, saying last year he’d been playing in a softball game when two dogs got in a fight at Seven Pastures, and one of them had to be put down.

“It was quite traumatic and awful, so I think that’s a very, very good suggestion that we include in this, that we have signage saying Seven Pastures is a leashed area, because all those dogs are running wild and they’re all over the place,” Hanson said. The assembly directed Public Works to acquire signs denoting off-leash areas for both the trailheads, and signs denoting an on-leash area at Seven Pastures.


New keynote announced for 2018 North Words Writers Symposium

Author Pico Iyer, known for insightful travel books and talks around the world, will be the new keynote for the 2018 North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway, May 30-June 2. Iyer will take the place of Susan Orlean, who had to cancel this year but has committed to be the keynote in 2019.

Iyer crowns a stellar faculty including Alaskans Ernestine Hays, Frank Soos, Emily Wall, and Ray Troll, and Northwest writers Willy Vlautin, and Colleen Mondor.

Iyer has written numerous magazine pieces and books, from his first Video Night in Kathmandu, while working for Time magazine, about the influence of Western cultures on 10 Eastern nations to his bestselling The Open Road, chronicling his more than 40 years of traveling with the Dali Lama. The New York Times Book Review called it “a trenchant, impassioned look at a singular life.” His most recent book is The Art of Stillness, from his popular TED Talk series about the need to open up space in crowded lives.

NWWS faculty is rounded out by a cadre of authors whose talents and accessibility qualifies them to mentor the symposium’s participants. Ernestine Hayes is a Tlingit author whose first book, Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, received an American Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN Nonfiction Award. The Tao of Raven is her latest book, a work that weaves memoir with Raven, trickster and bringer of light. Hayes is the current Alaska State Writer Laureate, an honor held previously by another faculty member, Frank Soos. Soos is author of several books, including a memoir, Bamboo Fly Rod Suite, and a short story collection, Unified Field Theory, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. He is a professor emeritus at UAF.

Poet and UAS English professor Emily Wall returns to North Words in 2018 to continue practicing her considerable skills as mentor and guide to developing writers. She has two books published with Salmon Poetry: Liveaboard and Freshly Rooted. Her third book, Breaking Into Air: Birth Poems, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press.

For more information on more of the visiting faculty, visit Registration is filling up for the ninth annual symposium. Interested participants are encouraged to act soon as the limit is 40 participants.