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Downtowners fight snowboard event

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Against Downtown Boarding

John VanWyke, left, Lynne Baker and Gordon Watkins stand on San Francisco St. Wednesday in Flagstaff. The three are among business owners opposed to a Winterfest snowboarding event scheduled for next month which will close two blocks of North San Francisco St. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun)

Gordon Watkins has spent a year fighting a planned winter event that would shut down a busy street near his house and business for several days.

The owner of the Inn at 410 just north of downtown Flagstaff lost that battle on Tuesday night when the Flagstaff City Council rejected his -- and other business owners' and residents' -- complaints that the planned Flagstaff Urban Ski and Snowboard Event would be a disaster for downtown Flagstaff.

A majority of the Council rejected an attempt by Councilmember Celia Barotz to revisit plans to close North San Francisco Street between Birch and Dale avenues for three full days and parts of two others.

City officials will close those two blocks for all of Friday through Sunday, Feb. 10 -12. The street would reopen to traffic in the early morning hours of Feb. 13 under the current plan.

Watkins, who resigned Wednesday from the city's Diversity Commission in protest over the council action, said he thought he brought the right ammunition to Council meeting to shoot down the plan.

He was armed with a petition with more than 100 signatures asking the Flagstaff City Council to limit the number of events downtown with street closures. And he brought with him a small group of downtown business owners who were opposed to holding the planned Flagstaff Urban Ski and Snowboard Event downtown.

Watkins believes the event is designed to promote the Arizona Snowbowl.

"There are better ways to promote Snowbowl downtown that won't close a major thoroughfare for four days and not on one of the only busy winter weekends we have here in town," Watkins said.

Watkins challenged the city to find another venue or to delay the event for a year, contending the event would generate additional traffic, noise and litter in the quiet downtown neighborhood. His inn is one block east of the planned event.

But despite Watkins' pleas, downtown business owners are divided on whether the snowboarding event is a good or bad idea.

Mark Lamberson of Mountain Sports, one of several business owners Tuesday night who spoke in favor of the event, said he was happy that a majority of the Council backed plans for the event.

"We are excited to bring this first-time event to Flagstaff and we are hoping this will become a cornerstone to a revitalized Winterfest celebration," Lamberson said.

With no formal reconsideration of the event by the council on the horizon, city staffers said they have reached their goal of getting at least $24,000 in pledges from local businesses to privately fund the event.

City officials estimate they will need roughly $30,000 to cover all the costs.

The Council did offer a single concession to downtown residents and business owners upset about the planned event.

They have agreed to review the process used to close downtown streets as well as revamp the notification procedures for nearby residents and business owners.

Many opposed to the street closure complained they received little or no warning before the Council approved the event at a scheduled noon meeting last month.

Barotz said she believes the process to inform locals about the snowboarding event was not effective.

She also has significant concerns about public safety for the entire neighborhood posed by the street closure for several days.

"It did not have integrity," Barotz said. "I can't stand behind my decision (to approve the street closure.) I don't feel good about my vote."

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or

Editor's note: This report has been corrected from its original version.



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