In two previous columns I have given some background behind Dawson City’s interest in UNESCO’s World Heritage Status designation. The Klondike region was placed on the national short list for this status in 2004, and I have outlined some of the earlier attempts to realize this goal.
The latest project is called Tr’ondënk-Klondike: Future World Heritage Status? It is being led by TH who are “managing the process of exploring the cultural, social and economic impacts of possible World Heritage status on behalf of community partners.”
The process also includes an advisory committee with input from the Klondike Visitors Association, the Tr’ondënk Hwëch’in, Parks Canada, and the Government of the Yukon. It also includes four residents.
I am one of the chamber reps on this committee and, as a journalist, I have been writing about this subject on and off since Pierre Berton first brought the possibility to my attention in 1997.
Since much of the Dawson City area is already comprised of several overlapping National Historic Sites, and the town already has a Historic Management Bylaw, adding World Heritage Status to the local mix would only make very minor changes in how people live here now.
No hunting, fishing, mining or trapping rights would be affected, nor would local taxes and utility rates. Construction guidelines in the downtown core area have been in place for decades, so no change would occur there either.
However, there is a tourism draw associated with World Heritage Status, so we could expect to see visitors who have an interest in indigenous, cultural, industrial and natural sites. There would likely be more international visitors.
There would also be more local interest in learning about and celebrating what makes this area so special, and a commensurate increase in community pride connected with living in, hosting and safeguarding one of the world’s most precious places.
We could expect greater ability to leverage funds and attract partnerships for research, protection, and interpretation of heritage, and perhaps turn back the clock on some of the Parks Canada cutbacks that have had such a negative impact here.
The nomination process, which would take a number of years to complete, would promote better relations between governments, businesses and community groups.
Specialists have been recruited to work on various aspects of the study, which is beginning by attempting to define the outstanding universal value (OUV) statement, which is an essential part the nomination.
This is an exploratory study at present, seeking to determine the degree of local support for this designation and the feasibility of a successful submission to the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
Details, and a survey for anyone wishing to comment on this topic, can be found at the project’s website (http://tkwhstatus.ca/) and also on its Facebook site.
I’ll return to this topic once that OUV statement has been released. The next set of workshops on this project will take place in a few weeks time.