Whitehorse residents have their say on the city's draft official community plan

·4 min read
A view of downtown Whitehorse in summer. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
A view of downtown Whitehorse in summer. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

Some Whitehorse residents are pushing back against the city's proposal to build a road through McIntyre Creek, a wildlife corridor and area full of trails.

It's one of several concerns that were raised Monday night when at least 50 residents packed city hall to share their thoughts on the official community plan directly with city council for the first time.

The draft plan, released in May, is the city's first community plan in a decade. It's meant to set the course of the city for the next nearly 20 years. A main focus in the plan is how Whitehorse officials will address the ongoing housing crunch within city boundaries.

Part of the draft community plan states the city would work with partners to establish McIntyre Creek Park, but it may mean the construction of a transportation corridor between Mountain View Drive to the Kopper King area.

The possibility of building a road through the area has stirred controversy already and was top of mind for some people during Monday's council meeting.

'It isn't too late to conserve McIntyre Creek'

Maegan Elliott, with CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) Yukon, told council she thinks there are several aspects of the city's proposed plan to be celebrated, including that it would maintain green spaces, add densification development and formally designate McIntyre Creek as a park, "an area with many social, cultural and ecological values."

But she said if the city considers building a road through McIntyre Creek, it is in "direct conflict" with the city's own "sustainability themes."

She said last summer and winter, CPAWS collected data on wildlife at MacIntyre Creek to learn more about how different species use the area.

"Our remote cameras recorded grizzly and black bears, lynx, mule deer, pine marten, moose, coyote, foxes, porcupine, snowshoe hare and one wolf. Our audio recorders documented 55 bird species, including three at-risk species," Elliott said.

Anna Desmarais/CBC
Anna Desmarais/CBC

The results, she said, show that for most of the species studied, existing levels of development in McIntyre Creek haven't reached thresholds that would cause these species to avoid habitats along the creek.

"It isn't too late to conserve McIntyre Creek for future generations of Whitehorse citizens," Elliott said.

"I urge you to remove the proposition of a new road through McIntyre Creek from the OCP."

Chris Rider, also with CPAWS, asked city council to reconsider its plan to put a road through McIntyre Creek as well.

"I run, I walk my dog, and more recently, we've been taking our three-month-old baby son for walks through McIntyre Creek," he said.

"I personally believe that a road through that area would permanently alter it in ways that would undo the things that make it so special. And so for that reason, I ask that you remove a road through McIntyre Creek from consideration in the official community plan."

Anna Desmarais/CBC
Anna Desmarais/CBC

Janet Horton lives in Takhini North, and told council that she couldn't find any "rationale" for the city's proposed plan.

"There's no indication of who recognizes that such a transportation corridor is needed or why it is needed," Horton said.

Stevens Quarry, light pollution and more

Other concerns raised by residents Monday night include Stevens Quarry, in the northwest corner of Whitehorse being identified as a priority area for gravel extraction.

Nana Lehnherr, with Takhini Highlander Farm, said within the last 10 years, she's already taken action along with others to oppose the project.

"How many times do we have to oppose and discuss this matter? Developing [the] Stevens Quarry would have numerous negative impacts on environment, the quality of life of local residents and the viability of agriculture and ecotourism in the area," said Lehnherr.

She cited some impacts like dust, noise, air and water pollution, loss of forest, increased erosion and sediment input into the river, which she said in turn will degrade water quality and fish habitat.

"Once you dig up those hills, they are gone forever," Lehnherr said.

As well, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada made a bid to help the city reclaim its "night sky heritage," asking the city to strengthen its commitments in the draft plan.

A resident of the city's old town neighbourhood, Nathan Miller, raised a concern over the possible erosion of character to the area by increased density. He pointed to changes that have already been made since the 2010 official community plan, where lots could increase from two dwelling units per lot to four dwelling units per lot.

"It really changed the character of the neighborhood, which previous to then was single detached housing. And I think there's some that really think that this change was for the worse and was kind of imposed on them."

Council members said they're taking all the comments under consideration, and that changes can still be made to the draft plan.