Woodyard woes continue
Public committee compares historic woodyard to Barkerville

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 07/97) - Just who owns the Woodyard has to be "ironed out" out before the city should be directed towards any future developments.

That was one of the recommendations made at Wednesday night's public workshop discussing the future of Yellowknife's historic Woodyard.

Wednesday's meeting drew a packed house, including several new council members, the mayor and city administrator Doug Lagore.

The fate of the Woodyard, which consists of a few acres of commissioner's land with a dozen shacks -- all but three owned by members of the Rocher family -- has been debated for almost 20 years.

Jeff Rocher, who has been at workshops in the past, was unable to attend the meeting due to out-of-town business. But the committee agreed it the Rochers should be involved before any decisions are made.

"It's because of the Rochers that we still have a Woodyard," said one participant.

Another critical issue, raised by Woodyard resident Walter Brown, is that the Yellowknives Dene have selected the land under their land claim.

"They have very different ideas as to what to put there. They may want to build a casino ... or a cultural park ... the issue of ownership has to be ironed out," said Mike Byrne, a Ragged Ass Road resident and former city councillor.

"The city is caught in a pickle barrel. They don't own these buildings, they don't want to because of the liability ... we have to work really hard to resolve the liability issue," Byrne added.

After three hours of debate the committee passed a recommendation to city council that "before proceeding further," city council should be polled to see if "there is support for carrying on a working group," that will "roll up its sleeves and resolve the problems."

Robert Slaven, a newly elected councillor, joined fellow rookies Kevin O'Reilly, Peggy Near and Ben McDonald in assuring the committee that they would take these issues seriously.

"It's (the Woodyard) not going to be able to continue on its path without intervention. There's enough of us new on council that would ... nail down problems, get to the specifics and go from there."

The recommendation, which has to be put through the city development committee, is expected to be debated at the next council meeting.

While the city has yet to apply to the territorial Department of Municipal and Community Affairs to have the area rezoned for city use, past plans by the city called for turning the property into a park and the buildings torn down.