It was beginning to look like the House majority would never allow a vote on creating a safer Jonesville. The Jonesville Public Use Area bill — House Bill 6 — was offered more than a year ago by Rep. George Rauscher of Sutton.
But after being parked on the desk of Rules Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux since April, 2017, the legislation to formalize a public use area allowing for recreation, off-roading, hunting, and other uses finally made it to the floor, where it passed unanimously on April 6.
What was once a favorite recreation area near Sutton had started becoming notorious a few a years ago. There were just too many people using the area and some uses were creating conflicts, such as those who were shooting at targets they set up in areas where off-roaders were riding. At times, bullets seemed to fly from everywhere over Slipper Lake, a place where waders and swimmers head on a hot summer day.
Stray bullets sometimes hit homes nearby. And the place was being trashed with … trash.
The historic coal mining district, owned and managed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, is what prompted Rauscher to get more involved in the political process in his hometown as he and his neighbors looked for a solution.
Creating a formal public area and — importantly — a management plan out of what was becoming a “Mad Max” theater was the best answer. That had worked at Jim Creek, where unstructured target shooting had become a public safety concern until a shooting range was set up on Maud Road. Jim Creek became the model for Jonesville.
Federal funds from mining reclamation will continue to come into the area, where the state can use the funds to make improvements.
LeDoux, who was apparently irritated that Rauscher had beat her friend and collaborator Jim Colver in the 2016 primary, had used Rauscher’s key legislation to punish him for taking out the leader of the Muskox Caucus, the group that had conspired to roll the House Republican leadership and turn the keys over to the Democrats. Rauscher was having no part of making that kind of deal for conservative District 9.
HB 6 has now reached the Senate, where it was read into the record on Friday and referred to Rules. That signals the Senate is likely to put it on a speedy path for a vote.
This weekend, Rauscher was optimistic about the legislation getting passed by the Senate.
“This year, the Legislature is finally addressing the safety needs of the people who use the Jonesville area,” said Rauscher. “It’s always been about safety and families.”
While you tune up your ATV for the coming recreation season, check out this epic rollover in a YouTube video posted by Jukin Media: