Balloon business pulls out of Fairbanks

Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A hot air balloon operator who has run a tour business for the last 10 years is pulling out of Fairbanks saying the city is no longer balloon friendly.

In a letter mailed to Fairbanks media and several local businesses, Jack Klein, owner of Advanced Balloon Adventures in Anchorage, said new landing rules imposed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge are behind his decision.

''After 30 years of balloons flying safely in the Fairbanks area the attitudes have changed to: We like the balloons, but not in our backyard,'' Klein wrote in the letter. ''Fairbanks will eventually become like Anchorage, a city without hot air balloons.''

Klein refused to talk to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, referring instead to the letter he wrote.

But officials from UAF and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which manages Creamer's Field, said neither institution has imposed any new rules regarding hot air balloons. Hot air balloons are allowed to land at either UAF or Creamer's Field in an emergency.

''I think in the past they got away with it and weren't observed and what's happened is we've been a little more vigilant the last few years,'' Creamer's Field refuge manager John Wright said.

UAF public information officer Debra Damron said there has been no change in the university's policy regarding hot air balloons on campus.

''We do not allow balloons to take off or land on UAF property, that's been our policy for years,'' Damron said. ''Of course, we wouldn't prevent them from landing if it was necessary.''

No one has ever been arrested for landing a hot air balloon at Creamer's or UAF, but the university's policy does state that failure to comply with the conditions of the policy can result in criminal trespass charges and seizure of the balloons involved.

Fairbanks' only other hot air balloon tour operator, Sam Racina, disagreed with Klein's assertion that Fairbanks is becoming balloon unfriendly. Racina, of Fairbanks, has operated Midnight Sun Balloon Tours for the last 14 years and said he is gearing up for his biggest season ever.

''I'm expecting a bumper crop of tourists starting (today),'' said Racina, who carries about 250 to 300 tourists a summer at $150 a head.

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