Thank you for the opportunity to speak, and thank you for listening to the testimony of a gateway community which sits at the entrance to a national park, a community in the direct line of flight of the airplanes and air tours you are considering here today. Please hear our testimony as an example of the many other communities who are the most affected by these deliberations, for we are the people who must live with the impacts of these flights, should you allow them. We appreciate this opportunity to let you and congress know, when an airplane flies over our homes, what we see, hear, and feel.
Let me begin by telling you about an incident at our school two years ago. Della Higley, born in 1914 on land which is now Zion National Park, was speaking to our children in celebration of our state’s centennial. Wearing a pioneer dress and bonnet, Della was telling our children what it was like growing up here in a simpler time, when things were quiet and peaceful, and then all of a sudden–there was an earth-shaking boom, which rattled the walls of the school. It startled Della and frightened the children–they dove under their chairs, afraid it was an earthquake. But it was only a sonic boom. It took a while for Della to catch her breath and collect her thoughts, before she could resume her story about the way it used to be…
Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence in Springdale. The booms and roars, the insistent drones and whines of airplane engines are becoming louder and more common every day.
Della Higley told me she has always been against airplanes flying overhead in the park. Last week I went back to our school and asked the kids how they feel about the various aircraft flying over Springdale, big planes, small planes, helicopters and commercial air tours. Here is what they said:
Chelsea, Age 11: “When I go on hikes I do it to get away from noises and when a plane goes over it ruins my whole day.”
Sarah, 4th grade: “When I climb the mountains, I like the sound of the wildlife, but when a plane flies over it breaks the silence and I think no planes should fly over Zion, because I want Springdale and Zion to stay the way it is.”
James, in 4th grade: “When planes fly over they make small towns into big cities.”
Jared, age 10: “I like it when it’s quiet–I like it when it’s peaceful. Airplanes should be outlawed in Zion and Springdale.”
And finally, listen to words of Becky, a 5th grader: “If there’s a tour helicopter and you’re in it, you’re thinking how great it is. But you should think about what if you were down there and you were looking at an animal. When a tour plane comes over it scares away the animal. Think about what you are doing to other people when you go on a tour plane. It could ruin someone’s whole day. It’s peaceful when there are no planes. I hope we can stop the planes.”
Our children speak unequivocally and with great insight. On this issue, our community speaks with one voice. We are united in our opposition to overflights above Zion National Park, and our feelings our strong. Our zoning ordinances prohibit landing strips, airports and heliports. We have joined with our neighboring communities who oppose them anywhere in the vicinity. Our town has twice asked the FAA to ban park overflights.
I am also speaking today for the Zion Canyon Chamber of Commerce, who unanimously passed a resolution opposing overflights, because their customers, the annual 2.5 million visitors to Zion National Park, are deeply offended by them. Overflights may drive their business away. We work hard to provide our visitors with a good meal, a warm bed, and the quiet time they need to relax and enjoy their experience of Zion. Don’t take that quiet away from us, and from them. It is an integral part of the high-quality experience our visitors deserve and expect. The noise and sight of airplanes cheapens their visit and damages our economy, which supports our local families. It also degrades our own quality of life.
It has been argued that air tours are environmentally sensitive, but they are undoubtedly the most insensitive way to see the national parks because they assault the senses of everybody else who is not on the planes, the hundreds and thousands who must see and hear them. As our school children wisely said, just one plane ruins everybody else’s day. It intrudes, it breaks the silence like a bull in a china shop, and all of us on the ground, especially we who live under its path, we have no choice–our ears are held hostage by the racket of its engine, our day in the park shattered by the noise like a fly-by shooting.
So I ask you, keep your ears to the ground, to what the people are saying. And when you make your decisions, know that our ears are tuned, wide open. We will be listening, and the 70 million annual on-the-ground visitors to national parks will be listening, and we will hear you, loud and clear.
Phillip K. Bimstein
Mayor, Town of Springdale