Permafrost may have finally had its way with the Art and Margaret Fry Recreational Centre in Dawson City, Yukon.
Presented with the option of repairing the old building, at a cost of $20 million, or building an entirely new structure, town council voted recently for the latter option.
“We’re living proof of the effects of climate change and its weighing on that building,” said Dawson City Mayor Wayne Potoroka.
The community rec centre has been plagued by structural issues caused by thawing permafrost. It was partially closed last August as the thaw reached a critical level — blocking access to the town’s hockey rink, curling rink and curling lounge.
“The problem that we’ve come up against just recently,” Potoroka said, “is we can no longer be guaranteed of permafrost at 16 feet and below. Which is what the standard was in town for very many years.”
For that reason, Potoroka is fearful of the cost of keeping the current rec centre safe to use in the next several years.
“In five years, if we’re still in that old facility, it could require quite an enormous expenditure to bring it up to a standard where we could still have people in there.”
He hopes to start construction on a new building in 2019, ideally by tapping into the federal government’s infrastructure fund.
“The importance of recreation in a northern community cannot be understated.”
‘Good things going’
Paul Robitaille of the Klondike Visitors Association echoes that sentiment, citing the importance of hockey tournaments and curling bonspiels.
“Not only does it add to the tourism offer we have, but also just to year-round living. Recreation’s really important to a good quality of life in Dawson, which is important to all of us that call this place home.
“Dawson’s not booming,” he admits, “but there’s a lot of good things going … Lots of young people are staying, and having a rec facility and being able to play hockey and curling and skating, those are really important things to…