In voting to permit the National Park Service to provide walking tours in downtown Skagway for another five years, the borough assembly added a provision that would allow the municipality to build a two-lane road adjacent to the Skagway Hardware Co., partially on federal land.
The road amendment passed in a split-decision, decided by the mayor. The amended agreement passed 5-1 and now goes to the Park Service for its consideration.
“I think this is a major safety issue and has been for a long time,” Assemblymember Dave Brena said at the April 4 assembly meeting. “(The road) is in the area that the Park Service (tours) are standing.”
The amendment to the agreement also would allow a sidewalk, with the improvements partially be built on NPS land, Brena said.
The street corner at Broadway and Fourth Avenue is part of the Old Moore Homestead, a famous landmark in Skagway. William Henry Moore stood on that corner to stop Gold Rush stampeders from stealing his cattle.
The corner has been a hazard for walkers and tourists and the single-lane sharp turn has been brought up as hazardous in previous borough assembly meetings.
“People at the Park Service have heard me complain about (the road issue) a lot, but my understanding is that for them to yield the Old Moore Homestead would take an act of Congress,” Assemblymember Orion Hanson said.
Though he didn’t think the NPS would be able to approve the amended walking tours agreement, Hanson said he would vote in favor in hopes it could start a discussion with the Park Service.
In contrast, Assemblymember Jay Burnham said that the street needs to be an issue on its own, rather than being added to the walking tours agreement.
“I don’t think we should hold hostage their walking tours,” Burnham said.
Assemblymember Dan Henry said the municipality has been in discussion with the NPS for 15 years due to the severe safety issue at the corner, which is directly affected by the walking tours.
“There’s 30 people that are tough to keep corralled and they’re going on that walking tour right through the area,” Henry said.
Assemblymember Steve Burnham said the municipality might be better served by sending a proposal to Congress rather than writing it into the agreement.
Jay Burnham, Tim Cochran and Steve Burnham voted against the amendment, with Henry, Hanson and Brena voting in favor. Mayor Andrew Cremata voted in favor to adopt the amendment. The agreement was approved 5-1, with Steve Burnham voting against.
The agreement states that the NPS can offer Historic District walking tours, which are prohibited except the NPS and the Red Onion Saloon. The Red Onion is able to give walking tours because it was grandfathered in before the municipal ban was adopted.
The municipality’s agreement with the Park Service expired Dec. 15, 2018. The new agreement would be active until Dec. 15, 2023.