Annie Steen has had the opportunity to use the new Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway to access camping grounds in Husky Lakes over the last year, giving her a tourist’s perspective on the road and how it enters Tuktoyaktuk.
“Along the way there are so many beautiful rivers, creeks and lakes,” said Steen, economic development officer for Tuktoyaktuk. “The birds along the way are just amazing.”
She was speaking as part of a panel on the new highway at the Northwest Territories Tourism conference last week in Inuvik.
“For us in Tuk, this is quite alarming,” said Steen about the coming change. “We’re a small community.”
She said the community and hamlet have been trying to prepare as best as they can and hope to put on a good, welcoming show for everyone.
One of the major beautification projects in preparation was the hamlet’s Paint the Town initiative this past summer.
Approximately $290,000 was spent on that project, bringing in Loop Recycled Paint, Giant Tiger and a number of government organizations and Tuktoyaktuk businesses.
Of that money, $120,000 was spent in wages for 18 jobs over 14 weeks. Painted were 28 buildings, one graveyard, two outhouses, and 33 tables and benches.
Beautification has been a theme for the hamlet, especially after comments from German travellers that the farther North they come, the more litter they see.
“That really opened our eyes to say a litter campaign is really important,” said Steen. “That’s not what our culture believes in. We believe in taking care of the land. Sometimes you don’t really notice things are going astray until you have new eyes on it.”
Current businesses established in Tuk are a restaurant and takeout business, additional gas station, public mobile maintenance garage expansion, an additional outfitter and a community garden society.
Future plans include developing an arts strategy, continued beautification, developing a heritage centre, creating a restaurant and hotel, developing a tire shop, expanding tourism and outfitting opportunities, developing cultural camps and eco tours, creating a fur garment shop, making a community garden, expanding special events and festivals and even establishing an RV park and campground.
The hamlet is also looking to turn the community’s historic sod house into a tourist experience.
“(Tourists) want to experience the Inuvialuit way of life,” said Steen.
She called beautification programs contagious and said the arts strategy will include theatre and drama.
Developing a hotel is especially important so that Tuk doesn’t have to be just a fly-in, fly-out experience, she added.
Robin Anderson from tourism and culture in the Yukon Government said the new road provides exciting opportunities for his territory to work with the NWT.
“New roads don’t open very often anymore in the world,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”