Getting Around in Dawson

I recently listened to a court debate concerning the streets connected to 2nd Avenue in the north end of town, and which turn you would have to make to get back to Front Street, depending on which direction you were travelling. There were street names involved, but using them just seemed to confuse the matter.

On another day, I heard someone giving directions by referencing buildings and where someone used to live before so-and-so bought the place. No street names were mentioned.

Getting around in Dawson is a bit like that. We all know where things are — more or less — but giving precise directions can be a bit daunting. Our house, for instance, is easily described as being two blocks straight back from the school, a two-story blue house with a fence around the two lots. The school is on 5th Avenue, so that puts us on Seventh. On the other hand, if I’m telling this to someone who’s lived here longer than our nearly three decades, I may say that we’re right beside the late John and Madeleine Gould’s house.

These anecdotal directions works, but it’s not the best way to deal with anything official. When I thought there might be a water pressure-and-quality problem a couple of weeks back I needed to be able to describe the location as “936 – 7th Avenue”. Dawson’s streetscape is a bit confusing. Joe Ladue, who first surveyed the town site, had wild dreams of 16 avenues marching up the hill to the east. As it is, we currently have eight, and the ninth has become the Ninth Avenue Walking Trail. Housing beyond that has to wait until the hill levels off on Mary McLeod Road up by the cemeteries. Since I’ve been here, the town has made a couple of attempts to give order to the numbering of lots, and Bylaw 15-01, the Civic Addressing Bylaw, is about to take another crack at it.

I can see the need. Most houses are numbered, but some aren’t easy to see and then again some aren’t numbered at all. Houses at intersections pose a problem. Driving down 6th Avenue I noticed a house that clearly has its front facing the avenue, even though all its accessible entrances are on Duke Street; so the family has clearly labeled the avenue side with a sign that tells the RCMP, EMS, fire department, and anyone else what side of the house to go to. That’s the real need the new bylaw addresses: increasing the likelihood that an emergency-call response will find the right location.

That being said, we’re probably going to have to come up with a name for the lane between the Dawson City Hospital and the Old Territorial Administration Building. The location of the new hospital determined that the main entrance needed to be on the lane instead of on 6th Avenue, where there wasn’t room. If we ever need to give precise directions, telling someone that the hospital is just behind the Museum probably isn’t the way to go. 

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