For Skagway, fast ferries are the safest

Posted: Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I fine it odd that recent letter writers discuss Whitehorse crime without knowing anything about it. There is crime in Whitehorse - probably more than in Juneau - because there are many more people in the Yukon out of work. It is not safe to park your car in parts of downtown Whitehorse overnight without fear of it being vandalized or stolen. Just check the RCMP reports in the Whitehorse papers or on the Whitehorse Star Web site. Crime is not likely to increase in either Juneau or Whitehorse because of the proposed Juneau-Skagway road - the border does a good job of keeping most criminals in their own communities. And certainly just having ferry and air access to our capital keeps most Juneau criminals out of Skagway, except when they get big ideas about crossing the border and get caught. The bungled Kmart caper and some busted drug deals at our border come to mind. And just try to get a child into Canada without proper ID - many of us have had to make that extra trip home because we forgot our kids' or a friend's kids' papers.

The bigger fear about the proposed road for many Skagway residents is the effect on our economy. It is the big unknown. Will cruise ships keep coming here? Will we become a half-day stop for independent travelers, versus an overnight destination? Will the lure of easily accessible big box stores in Juneau - twice the size as those in Whitehorse - shut down the few year-round businesses that we still have? Or will there be enough winter visitor traffic to offset the loss of local business? And what about Haines? Will it have enough traffic to even survive?

These questions have been largely avoided in the Juneau Access study, because the answers really can't be known until the road is built. Experience tells us this. The 25-year-old Klondike Highway has been wonderful for Skagway residents, but not the miracle worker for the local economy that it was supposed to be. That is why there are so many questions coming out of here and Haines. And Juneau people need to think about these issues. The safety of your children isn't at stake here - it's how your neighbors will survive the economic realities associated with better Juneau Access.

If you don't care about that, then let the road be built. Stop here on the way to Whitehorse, stay the night, spend some money and prove me wrong. Oh, and make an extra side trip to Haines at the same time to help their economy.

For many of us up here, fast ferries are the safer alternative. Give them a chance to work. They will help us all.

Jeff Brady


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