Proposal for road over McIntyre creek stirs concerns from 2 environmental groups

Meagan Elliott is conservation coordinator with the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. She said McIntyre Creek is a wildlife corridor and building a road through it would push some species in the area out into neighborhoods, increasing human-wildlife conflicts. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

Two local environmental organizations are hoping to stop the proposed construction of a road —which goes through a sensitive ecological area in the city — dead in its tracks.

The Friends of McIntyre Creek and the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) both oppose the idea of building a road through McIntyre Creek.

In its draft official community plan, the City of Whitehorse said it will work with partners to establish McIntyre Creek Park but that it may mean a transportation corridor to connect Mountainview Drive to the Kopper King area.

Pairing the park with a transportation corridor “seems like conflicting uses,” said Meagan Elliott, conservation coordinator at CPAWS.

“McIntyre Creek is a wildlife corridor,” she said. “Different species of wildlife use this area to pass through the city safely and access the wilderness areas on the west and east sides of the city.”

Elliott said species that can be found in the creek include bald eagles, kingfishers, beavers, coyotes, foxes, lynx and snowshoe hares. She added that in areas of the creek where fewer people travel, moose, the occasional bear and wolves can be seen.

McIntyre Creek in Whitehorse. The city’s draft official community plan proposes to establish the area as a park but also states that it could ‘include a transportation corridor connecting Mountainview Drive to the Kopper King area.’ (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

She said the non-profit organization is concerned that if the city builds a road across the creek, it would destroy its ability to host wildlife.

“I would be worried that a road would push those species out into the neighbourhoods more, and we’d have an increased human wildlife conflict going on. Other species would probably just avoid the area altogether and they might not come through anymore,” she said.

The creek also has some unique ecological features, said Elliott, including different wetlands that are biodiversity hotspots.

“There’s freshwater springs that drain freshwater year round and just a lot of really unique habitats that are really important to wildlife,” she said.

McIntyre Creek in Whitehorse. The creek has some unique ecological features including different wetlands that are biodiversity hotspots, according to CPAWS’s Elliott. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

CPAWS did a study last year and found that for the most part, most species are able to handle the current activity coming from existing roads.

“So it’s not too late to conserve the area,” said Elliott.

She said CPAWS has been encouraging the city to improve existing roadways and shift to ride share options rather than build a new road that would support more single vehicle traffic.

She added the creek is also an important area for people to connect with nature, bike and watch birds.

Dorothy Bradley agrees.

Bradley, who is the president of the Friends of McIntyre Creek, has been fighting to keep the creek area free of development since 2009.

She said there had been plans for development in the area until last year.

Dorothy Bradley, president of Friends of McIntyre Creek. She said her group lobbied the city with partners and convinced it not to develop the creek area and said she was disappointed to see the proposed road in the draft community plan. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

Working with CPAWS and the Yukon Conservation Society, she said her group’s lobbying efforts paid off as development plans for the area weren’t in the draft community plan.

“But [the city] continues with the road, which originally was part of the development as well,” she said.

Bradley wrote the city a letter stating that building a road in the creek would tear up important habitat for wildlife and lead to the loss of wetlands.

“I am trying to get a lot of people to state their reason for keeping this an ecological area,” she said.

Elliott added CPAWS’s focus on the city’s community plan is on preserving McIntyre Creek.

An online survey is open until June 12 for Whitehorse residents to provide feedback to the city on any part of the draft official community plan.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: The long road for 2 northern Quebec towns to break a dependence on diesel, CBC News

Norway: The Arctic railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Modernizing Arctic aviation infrastructure among recommendations at Russian meeting, Eye on the Arctic.

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