Petition being reviewed to ban snowmaching in Fairbanks

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Fairbanks North Star Borough is reviewing a petition for a ballot initiative that if successful would ban nearly all snowmachining in most residential sections of Fairbanks.

Stan Justice, an advocate of climbing, skiing and cycling, submitted the petition. He said some snowmachiners are too reckless and endanger people using trails and bike paths.

''It's been a brewing problem for years,'' said Justice, who rides the Farmers Loop bike path daily. ''It's a specific problem of a few people going too fast and not regarding the rules.''

Borough clerk Mona Drexler received the petition April 9 and will decide early next week whether or not to certify it.

If it is certified, supporters would have 90 days to gather 2,700 signatures from registered voters. It is possible the initiative could appear on the October ballot.

Justice proposes barring snowmachines in the Fairbanks bowl, bordered by the Mitchell Expressway on the south, Farmers Loop on the north, Fort Wainwright on the east and Chena Pump Road on the west.

''The number of machines has increased. The speed they can go has increased. Their ability to tear up a trail has increased because of paddle tracks,'' he said. ''The only solution I see is you've got to draw the line and say no.''

The local snowmachine club, the Fairbanks Snow Travelers, has vowed to do everything it can to quash the initiative, said John Johnston, who sits on the club's board of directors.

''We'll put every bit of energy and strength we have to fighting it,'' Johnston said. ''I have a problem when someone tells me I can't snowmachine down the Chena River.''

Most problems are caused by young riders, not adults, he said.

''It's lack of education and lack of training and safety,'' Johnston said, noting the Fairbanks Snow Travelers spent $5,000 on awareness and safety classes last year.

The real problem, he said, is that snowmachiners don't have any place to go. That forces them onto bike paths, sidewalks and roads, where they are illegal.

Johnston said the borough should concentrate on building routes for snowmachines rather than eliminating them.

''We have roughly 10,000 snowmachines in the borough and we have no established trail system for snowmachiners,'' he said.

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