Protecting Carcross Beach – and those who love it

The South Klondike Local Advisory Council (SKLAC) hosted a meeting in Carcross last night, to further assess public support for rezoning part of the beach of Lake Bennett. The rezoning, taking the beach from “Hinterland” to “Hinterland-X” (hinterland with some restrictions), was presented as banning ATVs and dirt bikes specifically from the section of beach in front of the residential area (that’s perhaps 25% of the total area of the beach, which runs about 2km from the Nares River to the Watson River).

Twenty-two people attended the meeting (a very good turnout for Carcross) – primarily residents who live adjacent to the beach, or who use the beach for recreation. The beach seldom gets heavy use, but the reckless use of ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles has brought this issue to a head. While safety of other beach users is the primary justification for the proposal, noise and environmental damage are also considerations.

There was discussion about punishing all motorized users because of a handful of idiots, but as most of you know, that’s unfortunately the way the world works, and regulations such as this proposal advocates are common around the world.

The rezoning proposal has the support of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, and the Carcross RCMP have stated that they will enforce any regulations brought into effect (the maximum penalty for an infraction of this type is $200 and seizure of the motor vehicle).

There was also discussion about the need to be proactive in guiding motorized users to suitable areas when the closure comes into effect. One councillor stated that she would like motorized use of the entire sensitive dune system stopped. While I agree in principle, I also think that the likelihood of getting support for that is slim, and enforcement would be all but impossible.

While it will be easy to re-direct people from places other than the village to other access routes such as the two seen in the photos below, it may be somewhat more difficult to find routes for residents of Carcross, particularly those who live on the beach.

The meeting concluded with very strong support for a seasonal ban of all motorized vehicles, from March 15 until October 15. Migrating Trumpeter and Tundra swans have been harassed by motor vehicles (and even by a canoe launched into the ice-choked water apparently for just that purpose), and the swans arrive as early as the last week of March – that was the justification for what some thought was a very early closure. The photo below was shot from the sundeck of our cabin on April 1, 2007.

I agree that it’s a shame that regulations such as this need to be brought in, but I’ve seen and heard all of the stupidity on that beautiful beach I can stand. The SKLAC hopes to have the rezoning passed by an Order in Council before next summer.

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