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Snowmobilers and skiers scrap

Whitehorse is drafting new snowmobiling rules. To have your say, attend a meeting tonight. It's from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westmark Hotel. There, the city will showcase the results of a review done with the help of community associations...

Whitehorse is drafting new snowmobiling rules.

To have your say, attend a meeting tonight. It’s from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westmark Hotel.

There, the city will showcase the results of a review done with the help of community associations, the Yukon Conservation Society, First Nations, Listers Motorsports, the Klondike Snowmobile Association, RCMP and various branches of government.

If you can’t attend, written submissions are being accepted until May 5.

The meeting is part of a push to have new snowmobiling bylaws in place before next winter, said bylaw chief David Pruden.

Whitehorse’s antique snowmobile bylaw was passed in the early 1970s, when the machines were better known as “motor toboggans,” and last updated in 1994.

The review was spurred by several problems.

Young, reckless riders make a racket buzzing by neighbourhoods. Others chew up hillsides with their heavy treads.

Many neighbourhoods lack clearly designated “out and away trails” to allow snowmobiles to travel in and out of town. Without these trails, snowmobilers tear along the same trails as cross-country skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts, who often resent the intrusion of motorized vehicles.

Areas near Riverdale and Porter Creek seem to spur much of these conflicts.

Skiers want snowmobiles banned from trails behind Valleyview, Kopper King, Takhini and Marwell.

Conservationists worry sledders may frighten caribou and other wildlife. They want snowmobile use restricted near areas such as Paddy’s Pond and McIntyre Creek.

Sledders are still sore about how they’re banned from using the Riverdale footbridge to access a popular snowmobiling spot to the west. They’d like a new bridge that allows vehicles.

Some city signs are misleading. Protected areas are, in fact, fair game to snowmobilers.

And many snowmobilers flout the requirement that, within city limits, their vehicles should be registered and insured, and that they should be wearing a helmet while riding.

The city has one bylaw officer who spends about one-third of his work week trying to enforce this law, but with thousands of kilometres of trails within Whitehorse, it’s a tall task.

To try to address these problems, new trail maps are in the works. Bylaws will either be revised or replaced with new laws. And public education efforts will likely be ramped up.

The task force also fought over how far the city should go in regulating snowmobile use.

Brian Edelman, owner of Listers Motorsports, warned too much red tape will hurt the economy. The snowmobiling industry provides more than 100 jobs in Whitehorse, he told the committee.

Snowmobiles used within Whitehorse should be licensed, registered and insured, said Edelman. But he didn’t want age restrictions on snowmobiles, because riding will teach kids to be responsible with motor vehicles, he said.

More children have been hurt by riding bikes and playing in playgrounds than by riding snowmobiles, said Mark Daniels, of the Klondike Snowmobile Association.

Yukon Party goes on

advertising spree

The Yukon Party has launched an advertising blitz.

Flyers mailed across the territory boast of the governing party’s achievements. Spending on radio spots have more than doubled.

Guess who’s picking up the bill? You are.

To the Liberal Opposition, this is a blatant abuse of tax dollars. “Once again, the Yukon Party is spending public money in an attempt to refurbish its reputation in advance of the election,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell in a release.

But Premier Dennis Fentie insists the advertising is simply a way “to inform the public of what’s going on in their territory. And, these days, the Yukon is a very positive place.”

Total advertising spending is up to $22,000 this year, from $17,800 last year, said Bill Curtis, director of finance.

Of this year’s spending, $12,400 has gone to print advertising and $8,700 has gone to radio spots with CKRW and CHON. Last year, the territory spent less than half as much - $4,000 - on air time.

When pressed on the matter, Fentie insisted there was nothing untoward about the government’s advertising spree.

“I don’t know. Why is the sky blue and why is the water wet? We continue to use every means possible to make sure the Yukon public is informed,” he said.

“We certainly don’t get that from the opposition. So we have to present to Yukoners exactly what’s happening in this territory, to the extent we can.”

Fentie feigned surprise that the Liberals had criticized him.

“You mean they surfaced after their dismal performance in the last sitting? We were all waiting for Arthur Mitchell to articulate to the Yukon public what the Liberals stood for and what the plan is for the future. If that’s it, criticize us for informing the public, I wish them luck.”

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