Walk the Walk With KATTS…

Are you a Dawsonite who enjoys following maintained trails for hiking, biking, and skiing? Then you have KATTS to thank for giving you what you enjoy.

The Klondike Active Transport and Trails Society is a Dawson City-based, not for profit organization whose mandate includes “the development and promotion of a network of non-motorized recreational trails in the Klondike in order to promote healthy, safe and spiritually rewarding outdoor activities.”

The idea for KATTS arose in 2006 after the Yukon Government cut a fireguard above the last residential street, 8th Avenue, in Dawson City.

A group of locals saw the potential for part of the fireguard to become a formalized hiking trail. “Even though there were some trails around, and some people were using them, there were no formal trails in the Dawson area,” says Cathie Findlay-Brook, one of the founding members and president of KATTS.

She says the group felt that more of the community would get outside and be active if they were provided with safe and organized trails.

And so, in 2006, KATTS, a tongue-in-cheek acronym to counter all the sled dogs in the area, was formed. “The people involved in KATTS want to spend time doing outdoor activities they are passionate about,” says Findlay-Brook, an avid cross country skier. “They put their energies into that passion” in order to provide opportunity for others to do the same, she says.

With Community Development and National Trails Coalition funding and various partnerships throughout the community, the Ninth Avenue Trail, stretching from the south to the north end of town, was completed in three years.

Throughout, KATTS provided employment and skills training to youth. Alex Brook, Findlay-Brook’s partner and project manager for KATTS, oversaw the building of the Ninth Avenue Trail and mentored 64 youth, ranging from 12 to 29 years old, during its construction.

Once the trail was finished, yearly maintenance was awarded to KATTS by the City of Dawson, allowing summer employment on an annual basis for two to three Dawson youth. “We want to instill pride in young people and the community in the trails across the community,” says Alex Brooks. “(The kids) get out, do healthy work and get paid for it.”

KATTS has also been involved in other trail work. Summer projects involving youth and volunteers were done in Tombstone Park, both on the Goldensides Trail and the North Klondike Trail.

They have also worked on the Discovery Claim Trail, a few kilometres outside of town, built part of the Trans Canada Trail from Hunker Summit to Flat Creek, and added a trail by the new dog park in the north end of Dawson. For the most part, KATTS has done summer and fall work. But recently, the group decided that they needed to do winter work as well. “The darkness of winter causes depression,” says Findlay-Brook. “I love getting people outside because I believe it will help.”

Looking around, the society saw the potential to make formal ski trails out of some existing trails on Moose Mountain, Dawson’s local ski hill. “Before it was just a bunch of trails, and people would be confused and get lost,” says Alex Brook. “Formalizing with signage and grooming and making it safer means people will be more comfortable and will hopefully get out more.”

Findlay-Brook applied to Mountain Equipment Coop for trail signage funding, brushing out the trails, and a warming hut. Once they got the money, KATTS partnered with the shop class at Robert Service School to build the hut. Students pre-fabbed the walls in winter, while the rest was finished by the Tr’ondek Hwech’in summer youth program, led by Alex Brook. During the winter, volunteers groom and brush out the trails.

With many projects behind them, the society must now decide where to go. Future ideas include clearing some trails on the benches and in the gullies of the North Klondike River to create hiking/biking trails in summer and skiing/mushing trails in winter, and to open up the old Percy DeWolfe mail route along the Yukon River, building huts every 20 miles.

“The First Nations are very interested in the historical aspect of the Percy DeWolfe idea,” says Findlay-Brook.

“KATTS will meet soon to decide where to put our energies next.”

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