cbc yukon

Yukon's Carcross Commons ready for business as tourism season begins

The commons in Carcoss is ready for business as the tourism season kicks off for much of Yukon this Victoria Day long weekend. 

Five years after officially opening as a tourist destination, there are more buildings and they’ve all been rented out to shops, boutiques and cafés.

“It’s really exciting,” said Leslie Cawley, who’s working in one of the small boutiques.

“I’m actually a Carcross Tagish First Nation member and I’m working for Lumel Studios this summer, it’s a beautiful little shop with glassworks and surrounded by other businesses that are Native-based and food-based,” she said.  

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Cawley supports economic development in the community and added she is ready to welcome tourists into town.

“There are always going to be people that would prefer to have the quieter, more open areas, but we’re surrounded by that," Cawley explained. "The opportunity for economic development to occur is always going to benefit everyone in the community." 

Art gallery returns for second summer

Heike Graf has owned the Caribou Crossing coffee shop in the area for six years, one year longer than the commons has officially been open.

She said it’s been a "fun ride” seeing the area develop and added it’s the first time all of the spaces around her have been rented out.    

The Art House Carcross gallery in the commons is opening for its second season as well this weekend. It features work by artists from across the territory, including Indigenous artists.

For the first half of the summer, the gallery space will have a larger-than-life “Raven Lady” sculpture by Don Watt.   

The commons is one of several projects the business wing of the Carcross Tagish First Nation has on the go, explained CEO Nelson Lepine. A 500-seat learning centre opens in June and there are plans for a possible hotel.

“Do we want to be another Banff? I don’t know,” Lepine said. “A lot of people know that there’s huge opportunity within the region, but we just want to manage it in a respectful way.”

The First Nation is planning a feasibility study to see how financial growth would affect the community, to come up with the right balance between businesses and people who are already living there, Lepine said.

“We want to respect the people in our backyard, whether First Nations or non-First Nations,” Lepine said. “We need to manage the growth within the Carcross area.”