Doug Rutherford

Home » Election » What to do with McIntyre Creek?

What to do with McIntyre Creek?

September 2011
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One of the parties has commented on a somewhat contentious issue in the upcoming election. This is on the disposition of the area around McIntrye Creek. For those not familiar, the creek enters the Yukon River in the Mountainview Drive area and runs behind the College and back, through a number of interconnections, across the Alaska Highway and is fed by Fish Lake.

The Liberal Party, in August, called for the preservation of McIntyre Creek as a wildlife corridor. It is home to and the only direct passage from the Yukon River wetlands to the opposite side of the highway, for moose, bear and other animals. As a wetland, it is a home for migratory wildfowl and has recently returned to becoming a viable salmon spawning stream. The City of Whitehorse is planning to construct a major subdivision in the area straddling the creek.

I’ll toss in my bias here. I spent almost ten years identifying, excavating, and analyzing archaeological sites in the McIntyre Creek area. The creek served as a “highway” between the Yukon River and Fish Lake for at least 6,000 years, once more reinforcing the concept that places that are attractive to us now were probably attractive places to live over long periods of time. There are sites located from the mouth to near the highway and not all of the region has been thoroughly surveyed. These are protected under the territorial Heritage Resources Act and can not be developed, considering mitigation costs of excavating the site would be far more than the value of the land and would take a substantial period of time. About five years ago, Greg Hare of Archaeology Branch and I delineated the known site areas and that part of the land that is unable to be developed.

Other than the City, there are other parties involved. The Friends of McIntyre Creek, a local preservation group, have called to have the area turned into parkland. Some of the land is vested in the Ta’an Kwäch’än First Nation as part of their land claim. Interestingly, in one week, a number of years ago, one Yukon Party minister said it should be used for housing, one said it should be turned into a park, and the third reminded people that there is a prior committment to that land.

In the mid-1980s, much of the land in question was earmarked and promised by the government of the day as potential endowment lands for Yukon College. Negotiations for the transfer of these lands have been spotty at best over the last almost 30 years and there would have to be a number of amendments to the College Act to complete the transfer. For example, the college is not allowed to own land and the Department of Education is the actually owner of the existing college property and buildings. And, while this promise has failed over successive governments to come to fruition, a government committment (to the point that there are maps of the lands to be transferred) should take some precedence over newer concepts. For example, the City intends to put about 360 residential lots in the area, despite the fact the the new Whistle Bend subdivision is supposed to accommodate an additional 8,000 residents (we only have a population of slightly over 20,000 so this should take care of all of the growth we should expect in the relative future.) Another 360 lots is probably unnecessary, and it’s time we push goverment into keeping their promises for a change, particularly when it’s a promise that has come from governments run by each of the three major parties…



  1. Thanks for this well written and thoughtful piece on this Doug.

    It would be a travesty for this area to be taken over for subdivision development. Decisions need to take more into consideration than just the monetary bottom line; I hope they don’t ignore the social and environmental issues that would ensue with the development being considered.

  2. Linda Leon says:

    It sounds like the city can’t legally develop this area. Are they proposing ignoring College and Ta’an Kwäch’än First Nation claims to the area?

  3. The issue is whether or not YTG issues the land to the City for housing. The Ta’an land has already been issued to the council as part of the land claim. But, there is no protection if YTG decides to simply give away the endowment lands to the City to sell as residential lots.

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