More money for campgrounds means more fun for Yukoners

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, May 20, 2016
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Environment

Like many Yukoners, one of the reasons I love living in this territory is our incredible wilderness. Camping, fishing and other outdoor activities are some of the things that make our quality of life in Yukon so amazing.

That’s why the Yukon Party’s 2011 platform document, Moving Forward Together, included a commitment to upgrade Yukon campgrounds to improve accessibility, identify sites for new campgrounds and expand the capacity of existing sites.

In the five years since we were elected, we have been doing just that.

Over the past two years alone, we have invested more than $1.5 million to expand camping opportunities and improve our campground facilities. These improvements include significant work to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

Before we began this work, the Department of Environment’s planning and operations staff visited our campgrounds with a disability expert to identify ways we could improve accessibility.

My departmental staff were also provided with an orientation to the concept of “universal design” – the idea that a space, building or product can be designed in a way that makes it accessible to anyone, regardless of their age or abilities. I am pleased to say that the Department of Environment is now using these principles to guide the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of all Yukon campgrounds.

As a first step, the department is working to develop at least one accessible campsite in each of the territory’s major campgrounds.

Conrad Campground

Representatives of Yukon government and Carcross Tagish First Nation (CTFN) were amongst those at yesterday’s official opening ceremony for the new Conrad Campground, south of Carcross on Tagish Lake. Seen here (L to R) are Minister Elaine Taylor; Minister Wade Istchenko; CTFN elders Annie Austin, Ida Calmegane and Art Johns; Yukon Parks disability consultant Rick Goodfellow; CTFN Khà Shâde Héni Dan Cresswell and Minister Currie Dixon.

Other improvements so far include the installation of barrier-free outhouses at 32 of our 52 campgrounds and recreational sites, and the development of fully accessible campsites at the Wolf Creek, Marsh Lake and Twin Lakes campgrounds.

I am proud of the work the Government of Yukon is doing to improve camping opportunities for people with disabilities. The work will continue to be a priority for us in the years ahead.

I am also proud to say that today is a big day for outdoor enthusiasts, as the first new campground built in Yukon in 28 years opens its gates to Yukoners and visitors – the Conrad Campground, located about 13 kilometres south of Carcross on the shores of Tagish Lake.

Together with Ministers Elaine Taylor and Currie Dixon and Carcross Tagish First Nation (CTFN) Khà Shâde Héni Dan Cresswell, I was pleased to take part in an official unveiling ceremony yesterday for this beautiful new campground.

The 35-site campground doesn’t just boast great facilities and incredible views. It also includes two specially designated campsites that feature accessible parking, picnic tables and fire pits.

Its outhouses and kitchen shelter are also barrier-free, and there is an accessible spotting scope for wildlife viewing. The planned playground will also include an accessible play structure.

The Conrad Campground was built by the Government of Yukon and the Carcross Tagish Development Corporation.

As Carcross/Tagish First Nation Khà Shâde Héni Danny Cresswell recently noted, the shared approach our two governments took in developing this project is a real example of how governments can work together effectively to bring benefits to all Yukoners.

In addition, last fall, our government built 22 new campsites at existing campgrounds. Together with the 35 new sites at Conrad, this represents a 19 per cent increase in the number of campsites within 200 kilometres of Whitehorse.

This summer and fall we will continue our work, adding new infill campsites and making upgrades to outhouses, fire pits, docks, signage and kiosks at campgrounds across the territory. This includes $100,000 for infill at the very popular campground at Tombstone Territorial Park.

And as many of you know, we also committed funding this year to offer extended-season service at 10 campgrounds, which opened on May 13 and will close on September 30, weather permitting. The remaining territorial campgrounds are opening today.

I’d also like to remind Yukoners that eServices are available for fishers and campers – resident annual campground permits and angling licenses can be purchased online at the Environment Yukon website.

Enjoy the long weekend, and have an excellent and safe summer. Happy camping.