“Everyone is worried about them— a drone crashed on the White House lawn this year, for cripes’ sake. Drones have been involved in more than 25 near misses with aircraft across the country this past year. So, yeah, we’re concerned about what might happen in Ely if drones go unchecked,” says Chuck Novak, mayor of Ely. “Drones will otherwise be finding our secret fishing holes, our skinny dipping spots and our best blueberry patches. We need to watch the skies carefully, to keep things quiet, private and peaceful in our small town. Ely is a place where people like to come to get away from it all — people come to escape. Drones go against the grain of everything we believe. We need to protect our rights and our privacy. Amazon can just figure out a different way to get us our deliveries.”
Volunteer drone-spotters will be recruited in the Twin Cities on April 1 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. around the IDS Center Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis; and representatives of the Ely No Drone Zone Commission (ENDZC) will hand out information about the initiative. Interested parties can follow along on Twitter and Instagram at @weloveely and on Facebook/weloveely.
This summer, Ely residents and arriving tourists will be issued drone-spotting information cards to help identify unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In addition, drone-spotter binoculars will be available for a small fee to anyone wants to join the official Ely Drone Hunters Brigade. The Hunters’ motto, “If you see something, say something,” encourages reporting drones invading Ely’s airspace.
The city will also install “The City of Ely bans drones on these premises” signs in every store.
Novak said the drone ban arose when longtime citizen, Julia Fryar, saw a drone flying over her favorite, and—she thought—secret post-sauna sunbathing spot. She was outraged and formed a coalition of friends to petition city officials for the drone ordinance.
“You’re darn right we passed it quickly,” adds Mayor Novak. “It did turn out that what Julia saw was later identified as a heron. But hey —it could have been a drone, and she could have been horribly embarrassed. What if those pictures turned up on the Internet?”
Ely residents and visitors will qualify for a gift loofa if they drop off their working drones in the Ely Drone Amnesty Program box at the Ely Chamber of Commerce. Information outlining ENDZC activities is available at ely.org.
Ely, Minn., named the 2010 “Coolest Small Town in America” by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, is less than four hours’ drive from the Twin Cities—but a world away. The gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is known for its miles-and-miles of pure, unspoiled, drone-free beauty, as well as its communitywide sense of humor (especially at this time of year). For more information, visit www.ely.org, find us on Twitter and Instagram at @weloveely or at Facebook/WeLoveEly.
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