Interim superintendent takes office at Klondike Gold Rush Park

Coming from a background of law enforcement in the National Park Service (NPS), Albert Faria has stepped into the role of interim superintendent for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park while the NPS seeks a permanent fill for that position.

The office was emptied after longtime Superintendent Mike Tranel moved with his family to Wyoming. Faria will work in the position possibly through the end of September, depending on how the search goes.

“It’s an unknown, because it can take a short time, or it can take several months, so it just depends,” Faira said.

Most recently Faria comes from Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, where he is still the chief ranger. He’s served there since 2011, and before that he was chief ranger at Pinnacles National Park in California. Chief rangers are responsible for managing all the emergency services the NPS is required to provide within park boundaries, including law enforcement, search and rescue operations, any emergency medical services and fire response, among other duties.

In total, Faria said he’s been with the NPS for 30 years, with the Klondike Gold Rush Park being the 11th park unit he’s worked at.

“The whole time I’ve been in the law enforcement protection division within the National Park Service,” Faria said.

“I enjoy working with the whole host of different visitors and staff and community members,” he added. “Just having that opportunity to provide assistance and help folks in times of need is very satisfying.”

While cruise ships don’t port in Glacier Bay, Faria said he is used to working with the big boats. The ships will cruise through that park in limited number each day, and the NPS shuttles personnel to and from the ships to provide interpretive services.

“There’s a very unique and intricate operation to be able to do that, because the boat comes alongside the cruise ship while it’s actually moving, and they drop a ladder and the staff climbs up into the cruise ship,” Faria said.

For his time in Skagway, Faria said he aims to continue the projects currently underway by the Klondike Gold Rush Park, and to make sure the staff has all the resources necessary to “be successful in accomplishing the mission of the park service and of Klondike Gold Rush [Park].”

“Just making sure those programs continue and that they’re successful, and working with the community in any way that we can to provide support,” Faria said.

Borough discusses land acquisition

The Borough Assembly is looking at some of the empty land near the Skagway area with the hopes of helping the choked housing situation for seasonal employees.

At its June 7 meeting, the assembly talked about potentially-available lands in the stewardship of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

“There’s actually some very developable property on the Dyea Road right across from the overlook, there’s also property along the Klondike Highway and bordering Liarsville,” Assembly Member Orion Hanson said. “I think it would behoove us to contact Mental Health and, whether the municipality buys it or they just put it up for sale – I don’t know if it necessarily needs to be in our hands – but put it out there for the public to bid on.”

Hanson said Mental Health puts parcels up for sale all around Alaska.

“I think in Skagway, if you put it up in their [Mental Health’s] state auctioning system you’d have a competition for it,” Hanson said. “It’s usually undersold, and I think this would be a bidding war amongst the public.”

Borough Manager Scott Hahn said this kind of topic often comes up in a comprehensive plan, where the borough could take a broad look at the available lands and what they could be used for.

Hahn said, with the assembly’s approval, he could send a letter to Mental Health stating the municipality would like it to consider selling some of the land around Skagway that could potentially be used for residential housing.

Looking to another nearby area, Assembly Member David Brena said if Skagway was able to secure land in Denver Valley, it would “largely solve our housing problems.”

“And so I think it’s a very worthwhile effort on the part of the city manager or whoever to follow this until it’s either too cumbersome or results in getting some really prime land,” Brena said.

The mayor sent the matter to the Civic Affairs Committee for further review.

Assembly weighs in on Juneau Access funds

Mayor Monica Carlson recently asked the Borough Assembly for guidance regarding the funding for the Juneau Access Road Project. Gov. Bill Walker’s administration had announced in 2016 that it had picked the “no-build” alternative for the road project, which made $38 million in state funds available for other transportation projects.

In the 2018 state budget, funds had been moved back for the project.

“Senate Bill 142 is funding for the Upper Lynn Canal Juneau Access road,” Carlson said. “As a body here we have the ability to request the governor to either veto the money that he’s allocated towards the road to be redirected to Northern Lynn Canal Transportation Projects – it can be either vetoed or reassigned to help with the ferry float replacement.”

Assembly Member Orion Hanson moved to request funds be reassigned from the road project to Skagway’s ferry float replacement project at the June 7 assembly meeting. The motion passed 4-2 with assembly members David Brena and Tim Cochran against.

-DF

Record field for annual Yukon River Quest

The race roster is set for the 20th annual Yukon River Quest, which will begin on Wednesday, June 27 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. This year’s field will feature a record 115 teams with 263 paddlers from all over the world.

Fifteen countries are represented: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.

This year continues a trending increase in numbers over the past few years.

Registrations topped out at the new limit of 125 teams earlier this year. A few teams dropped before the final registration deadline of June 1 (and one since), leaving 115 teams as the official pre-start figure: The highest since the race began in 1999.

“We will no doubt see the record shattered for the number of teams actually starting the race (93 in 2016),” a press release for the River Quest stated.

A big reason for this is the 20th anniversary of the race. Thanks to a grant from the Yukon Government’s Community Development Fund, the River Quest has organized some festivities around the race, beginning with a huge Whitehorse meet and greet on Monday, June 25, at the SS Klondike historic site. Many paddlers and volunteers dating back to the race’s beginnings with the Dyea to Dawson centennial races of 1997-98 and the first River Quest in 1999 have been invited to attend. There will be more events happening at the start this year, at Carmacks for volunteers and as the race finishes in Dawson City on Canada Day, July 1.

Of course, the race itself is the draw that keeps teams, volunteers, support crews and spectators coming back year after year. Except for two mandatory rest stops totaling 10 hours, adventure and marathon paddlers race non-stop over the 444 miles to Dawson City. Held annually in the north during the last week of June, it is a true “Race to the Midnight Sun” where many of the world’s best paddlers gather.

Those interested can follow the race for a bit of fun, whether by watching from alongside the river or sitting at home. All teams are required to have activated SPOT or InReach tracking devices, which greatly aid those following the race on their computers or mobile devices. Just follow the race tracker link at www.yukonriverquest.com, and also watch for updates and photos on the race’s Facebook and Instagram pages. You can even replay the race when it’s all over.

“Many participants including myself see the race as a life-changing experience,” said current race president and veteran race marshal Roger Hanberg. “That’s why I come back year after year to help organize it. We are fortunate to have many volunteers that feel the same way. I think it’s a great showcase of our territory and its ancient highway.”

Representing Skagway is “Dyea Devils Club,” captained by race co-founder Jeff Brady, who threatens to break the “Skagway record” and get under 50 hours. Skagwegians Cory Thole, Pete Zimmerman, Danny Brady and John Hinrichs will join him in his Voyageur this year, with a sixth to be announced.

– YRQ MEDIA