A meeting Thursday night focused on the city's next major subdivision drew fewer members of the public than officials involved in the development.
There was a clear interest among the approximately four people who did turn up that greenspace in the Whistle Bend be a priority.
Those citizens also voiced a desire that consideration about trails and recreational opportunities go beyond the boundaries of the neighbourhood.
The Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) hosted the approximately two-hour session in the General Store of the Gold Rush Inn as part of its consideration of the city's application for phases three to seven of Whistle Bend.
It's the city that does the planning for the area while the Yukon government acts as the developer.
The neighborhood's major connection of Casca Boulevard would see phases three and four built around it. In phase five, a road tentatively named Independence Drive, which connects with Casca, would be the major connection.
And in phases six and seven, Witch Hazel Drive would be the major connection through the area.
Throughout the discussion during the meeting, Peter Long, who oversees the Whitehorse Walks website, noted the need for trail connections both inside the neighbourhood and connecting to other areas of Whitehorse.
As he pointed out, these phases of Whistle Bend will house thousands of residents – with 855 lots planned for 120 hectares – and while a paved trail through the neighbourhood is planned, people will want other connections.
Officials acknowledged the high density of the neighbourhood. They noted it will put double the population of Riverdale into a subdivision that's about the same size as Riverdale.
The Whistle Bend neighbourhood is designed to promote more active modes of transportation, such as walking, cycling and others.
Long, however, questioned what trail connections will be in place for residents wanting to get from Whistle Bend to other areas of the community.
Ultimately, Long would like to see a connection of trails which would link the community and travel along the Yukon River where possible.
"How 'bout getting across to McIntyre Creek?” he asked as an example, before wondering about those wanting to get to Yukon College as another example.
Long argued that some areas in town – such as Copper Ridge – are not as suited to walking as they could be because that wasn't considered when the area was planned.
"There's a real opportunity here,” he said.
He stressed the need to work on those issues now rather than coming up with a plan for trails years after residents have moved in.
As he and others learned though, those type of details aren't part of the YESAB process.
As Katrine Frese, who manages YESAB's Whitehorse-designated office, explained, the board's work involves an assessment of the direct area boundaries for the site, though it could be part of the more general concerns about the overall area.
Another YESAB official noted there is a section of the assessment that looks at cumulative effects.
The Yukon Conservation Society's Lewis Rifkind also argued the impact of putting a large population in the area has a greater impact than just within its boundaries.
"You're going to have impacts off-site,” he said, pointing to traffic as one ramification.
City planner Kindon Kosick said the planning did include looking at off-site impacts as well, including updating a traffic study for the area and planning for a paved commuter path.
He noted, though, that it's difficult to come up with a trail plan for the area without knowing where residents who will live there will want the trails.
"It's not fully determined what the trails are going to look like,” Kosick said.
There will remain a wide ban of land between Whistle Bend and the Yukon River, he noted.
Officials highlighted that 30 per cent of area trails are planned to be retained, and noted the 200-metre gain as well.
Longtime resident Marianne Darragh, however, was quick to counter that means 70 per cent of trails would be "dislocated” due to the development. That that leaves a question about what
happens with how people use the trail system.
Another resident, who came for a portion of the meeting, also noted concerns about wildlife using the area.
"I feel sorry for them because that's their value,” he said after residents were asked to state their "values” for the area.
He noted bears will likely still continue to wander into the area.
NDP MLA Kate White also wondered about the greenspace within the community.
She questioned whether indigenous Yukon plants have a better chance of thriving in colder weather, noting issues that have arisen in Takhini North where non-indigenous plants were put in during its redevelopment.
Kosick noted that while the city is most interested in low maintenance landscaping that will keep costs lower, those decisions would be at another level. As well, they would be made in discussions with the Yukon government.
"We're not quite there for that part of it yet,” he said.
Comments from last night's meeting were noted and will be compiled into the public views considered in the assessment. The public has until Jan. 16 to make written submissions on the proposal to YESAB.
Board officials will then review the input and may request further information from the city on its plans if needed.
Or, board officials may move into preparing any recommendations on the project, which would then go back to any governing bodies on the project – in this case, the city.
If the project goes ahead, it's expected construction of phase three would start this year and continue until 2017.