Fairbanks voters reject snowmobile ban

Posted: Wednesday, October 09, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Fairbanks North Star Borough voters by a 2-1 margin rejected an initiative to ban snowmobile use within most of the city of Fairbanks. Voters also narrowly approved school bonds.

Advocates of the snowmobile ban said the machines were noisy and a hazard to skiers and hikers.

''I don't care for the noise either, but everybody has a right to play where they want to play,'' said Kevin Parsons, an Air Force technical sergeant who spoke after voting in North Pole.

If the ban had passed, it would have closed off most of the city of Fairbanks and a few adjoining neighborhoods to snowmobiles and allowed for more controls in the future.

The ballot measure would have imposed speed limits on the Chena River and Noyes Slough, which run through downtown Fairbanks and residential areas.

The Fairbanks Snow Travelers and people who make their living through snowmobiles fiercely fought the ban in an effort dubbed Can the Ban.

''Snowmachining is part of Alaska. It's tradition in a sense,'' said John Johnston, president of the Snow Travelers. ''In their hearts, nobody wanted it -- at least not the majority.''

Johnston said the effort to fight the ban cost $16,000. Ban proponent Stan Justice said his side spent about $7,000.

The ban handily failed not only borough-wide but also in the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole. To become law, the measure would have had to pass in both cities combined and in the area outside the cities.

The outcome in the cities surprised Justice, who listened to frustrated city residents as he gathered signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

''This was only the start,'' Justice said. ''We succeeded in bringing the issue to the forefront. If bringing this out prevents one accident or saves one life, it was worth doing.''

Justice said supporters may turn to state lawmakers next for speed limits on snowmobiles.

The initiative called for Fairbanks police and Alaska State Troopers to enforce the ban. Police said that would be difficult.

Borough voters approved all three parts of a $42.2 million school bond package. The bonds will pay the community share of replacing two elementary schools and major maintenance at other schools.

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