By Melinda Munson
The borough’s attempt to attract a volunteer host for Dyea Campground has come to naught. The post offered accommodation in a newly constructed dry cabin, Dyea Camprground’s first such structure, in exchange for performing host duties five days per week, mornings and evenings.
According to Borough Manager Brad Ryan, the municipality intends to collect camp fees this summer, a practice that was waived last year due to the pandemic. Resolution 20-23R, passed in June 2020, allows the city to collect $10 per tent or camper per night, or $50 for an annual pass. There is currently no host to ensure that fees are being paid and campers are following campground rules.
Michael Yee, vice-chair of the Dyea Community Advisory Board, felt the borough didn’t do enough to promote the new volunteer opportunity.
“…This position was only posted at city hall. Although the city was notified that there was no other posting anywhere else in town, it remained only at city hall. It’s pretty tough to find workers, let alone a volunteer unless one earnestly advertises,” he said.
The position was posted on the municipality website, skagway.org, but closed on May 5 with no applications.
While there was no interest in a host residing in the dry cabin, there was interest in managing the campground.
“I have received a proposal from the current managers of the RV parks in town to provide campground host services in the Dyea Flats campground. Their proposal includes janitorial and host services,” Ryan said.
The managers offered to take on the campground at no additional compensation beyond what they are already paid per their current contract with the municipality.
According to Assemblymember Jay Burnham, the original purpose of the cabin was solely for a campground host. Earlier in the year, in the off-season and with no host present, the empty hut was offered to local residents at $50/night. Reservations were canceled when the municipality heard from concerned citizens who felt the building was not properly permitted and argued the structure could negatively affect nearby businesses.
“This cabin, which is a nightly accommodation offering that does not have to support its own construction, maintenance or day-today operations, is provided in the same service area of 18 other rustic, recreational cabins,” said Skagway resident Kaitlyn Jaren. “…I worry these establishments will join my grandparents, the Garlands, the Valentines and the other families who have sold out of the private accommodations industry here because the work is hard, the costs are high, the rewards are meager, the support is small and the demand for their services seems to be shrinking,” she said.
Others, like Cori Giacomazzi, support renting out the host accommodations.
“The Chilkoot Outpost offers an upscale experience whereas the Dyea Campground cabin offers a rustic experience. Because the demographic of the clientele for each rental is entirely different from the other, there is no direct competition. The Dyea Cabin would allow families who would otherwise be tenting a warm, dry, simple space to enjoy the loveliness of Dyea from. This cabin is making Dyea accessible to more people,” she said.
The discussion will continue as Ryan submitted two conditional use permits to the Planning and Zoning Commission, scheduled to meet May 13, after print deadline.
The first permit is for the already existing host cabin.
“…The Dyea Flats Management Plan and zoning code conflict regarding the need for a conditional use permit for a campground. Therefore, obtaining the conditional use permit will resolve the conflict,” Ryan said.
The second permit is to operate three additional cabins on the campground.
Jeff Brady, long term resident and operator of Alderworks Alaska in Dyea, a non-profit writers and artists retreat, said he doesn’t object to a host cabin with winter rentals but doesn’t see the need for additional structures.
“Keep it a campground, not a glampground,” Brady said.