By Leigh Armstrong
Skagway’s chronic summer housing shortage continues to make it difficult for Klondike Gold Rush National Park to fully staff up for the busy summer season. Currently, the Gold Rush Park is understaffed by around 15 percent, due in part to not being able offer housing as incentive.
The Park Service plans to add a duplex to its housing stock, which will include up to two extra housing units for full-time workers. The new unit will be available in 2021, but will not be enough to solve the shortage.
The agency also plans to build a 12-bed dormitory, but that will not be available until summer 2021, said Jason Taylor, Klondike park superintendent.
For the duplex, there are plans in place to get architecture and engineering specialists to Skagway to assess the property and find the best solution, said Aric Baldwin, Klondike Gold Rush Park maintenance chief.
A 2013 assessment said the Gold Rush Park needed at least eight more housing units in the Skagway area for full-time workers and 15 more for seasonal employees.
The new dormitory will be on Fourth Avenue and Broadway. The dorm will provide seasonal housing, helping to free up other housing in Skagway for year-round Park Service workers.
“Putting the emphasis on solving the seasonal surge will meet the needs for our permanent staff as well,” Taylor said.
The dormitory is estimated to cost $2.5 million, which the Klondike Gold Rush Park will get from a National Park Service housing initiatives fund.
Additionally, after full-time workers are placed into new housing, the Gold Rush Park will be able to end its leases on some residences in town, freeing them up for more Skagway residents, Baldwin said.
Without enough housing, the Gold Rush Park isn’t able to reach full staffing. “We have a staff shortage,” Taylor said. “The lack of housing impacts our ability to make hiring decisions.”
Adding more housing in Skagway is a struggle, he said. “It’s wholly a community problem.”
Skagway’s housing shortage is a major issue, which Mayor Andrew Cremata said he intends to focus on during his tenure.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that every working person in Skagway is housed safely,” Cremata said.
Cremata said there are plans for Bernello, Ajamil and Partners to give professional guidance on the housing in relation to the port. In addition, the Skagway Development Corporation and planning and zoning have been taking measures in working towards housing solutions, Cremata said.
Taylor said he is encouraged by the discussion of housing needs he has seen since he came to town in April. From community work sessions to discussions at borough meetings, people are talking and getting involved.
“If we all work together, it’ll get figured out,” Taylor said