At a recent municipal candidates’ forum it was suggested that one of the solutions to Dawson’s perennial winter housing problem would be to arrange to rent out rooms in some of the establishments that only operate in the summer.
It’s true that a good many places close up shop once the summer visitors slow to a trickle, and that shutters quickly go over the windows and doors.
What is also true is that most of these spaces were never built to withstand the chill of a Klondike winter, so it turns out that’s not a very practical suggestion.
There was a time when those doors and windows were simply covered with whatever random pieces of plywood the owners could come up with, banged on quickly in the operators’ haste to get the job done before the weather became too inclement. This resulted in perfectly decent properties looking like they had been abandoned, never to open again.
A town that’s trying to promote its shoulder and winter seasons as another kind of tourism really doesn’t want to project the air of being a ghost town for eight months of the year. Goodness knows, enough of our visitors ask how and why any of us would stay here year ‘round. Let’s not give them even more of a reason to wonder of they should happen to visit in the winter.
This issue was especially important when a lot of the shuttered hotels were located in the most prominent areas of the town.
A citizen’s committee was formed to draft some guidelines for off-season winter and door coverings, and they came up with some sensible solutions.
Don’t use the same worn and damaged boards every year; refresh them from time to time.
Better still, paint them some colour (black and grey seem to be favoured suggestions) that made it clear they were part of a temporary closure plan, and have all the shutters on your property be of the same type.
Next step: put some decorative thought into the preparation of these boards. This has led some business to paint the panels so they look like blacked out windows – just a set of criss-cross frames does the trick.
To the eternal credit of the members of the committee, a number of them even pitched in and helped business owners put these ideas into practice.
The result is that most of the shuttered buildings in town now look like they’ve been cozily tucked in for the winter rather than deserted forever.
The classiest set of shutters in town has to be the batch on the Gold Rush Campground, smack in the middle of town. Pat and Dianne Brooks went all out and made their white painted shutters look like actual doors and windows. The office and washroom doors look like the real thing, complete with painted windows and door handles. All the doors have markers to identify what would normally go on behind them: office, laundry, ladies, gents. The panels over the windows appear to have curtains in them.
It helps to remind us all that winter doesn’t last forever.