Navigating Dawson’s streets last summer

As it turns out, this was a very good summer for cruise ships to be docked elsewhere, being sanitized for their eventual revival, and for Holland-America to decide not to bring hordes of visitors to the Westmark Hotel in Dawson City.

Not that we don’t miss the clusters of tourists tagging along behind Parks Canada interpreters during the mornings and afternoons, or packing into Diamond Tooth Gerties in the evenings. This year’s little groups of no more than six at a time are nothing compared to the customary two dozen of other years. We do hope they will be able to come back next summer and that life will feel just a bit more normal, but the way Fifth Avenue along the entire Westmark block has been in constant turmoil since May, there was no way that the hotel (which stretches along both sides of that street between Princess and Harper) would have been accessible for either buses or pedestrians.

We are in the third season of a mammoth upgrade project to deal with the deficiencies in the town’s sewer and water infrastructure. That has meant that getting around town has been interesting enough for those of us who live here. For visitors, it’s probably been a mite of a mystery. Westmark block was finally finished around the same time Holland-America would have normally been buttoning up its hotel rooms and several staff accommodation buildings for the end of the season.

The work at that end of town barricaded two or three major east-west intersections, as well as the north-south route on Fifth, for much of the summer, and is now inching towards isolating the Dawson City Museum. Museum folks knew this was coming and were already closed this summer to allow for a massive internal renovation project. Elsewhere in town, Third Avenue, north of King Street, had several blocks walled off for a couple of months.

Locals described it as the project that kept on giving, as the initial installation of the new pipe somehow failed and it all had to be dug up again and reinstalled just after it seemed the task had been completed. The situation wasn’t quite as quixotic as the spring snow removal is around here, but it did mean that every few days you had to make a new travel plan just to get around.

For locals it’s the third year of this necessary evil. Parks Canada has contributed to the confusion with work being done to buildings on Third (the Dawson Daily News building) and Second (Ruby’s Place), both of which have involved some blocking of their respective streets. Things should be back to nearly normal by the time we get our first dusting of snow around Thanksgiving. In the meantime, all we have to concern ourselves with is falling leaves.

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