Hurricane City Council discusses proposal for helicopter tours at Sand Hollow

HURRICANE — During a Hurricane City Council meeting Thursday, the council discussed a proposal for helicopter tours at Sand Hollow State Park. The proposal was pitched as a co-op between Sand Hollow State Park and The Beach at Sand Hollow.

The entrance to Sand Hollow State Park seen in the summer of 2018. | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

At the top of the conversation regarding the proposal for helicopter tours, Mayor John Bramall said in a joking manner that “this is not a good time to come in and ask for that” in reference to the current issue of helicopter traffic between Hurricane and the Southern Utah University Professional Pilot Aviation Program.

Brent Moser, co-owner of The Beach at Sand Hollow, said that he had no idea about the issue with SUU. He said the helicopter tours would take people on a ride over the sand dunes at the southern rim of the lake and then turn south toward the Arizona border before looping back to the west side of the lake to land. These tours would be 6 minutes long and approximately $49 per person.

“Our flight pattern is not anywhere near Hurricane Fields or any residences at all,” Moser said. “We’re not SUU.”

Bramall said he was concerned with the noise, as they have already been receiving complaints about the noise of the boats.

“I guarantee you I’ll get complaints,” he said.

He was also concerned with how the noise would affect people who take their horses out in the area.

“If you’ve been on a horse that gets scared and goes from a walk to 35-45 miles an hour with adrenaline burst – those are the little kids you end up rescuing or are hanging upside down on a horse with the saddle on its belly,” he said.

A trail leader guides a driver through an obstacle during the 2020 Winter 4×4 Jamboree, Sand Mountain, Utah, January 2020 | Photo courtesy of Desert Roads and Trails Society, St. George News

Moser said they wouldn’t be taking helicopters in areas of horses but over the land used by all-terrain vehicles, which horses don’t like either.

Jonathon Hunt, Sand Hollow State Park manager, said that he and Moser have discussed the tours not as a permanent program, but more of a “see if it will work” trial run.

“We would probably write like a one-term, one-year agreement to see if it works or not,” Hunt said. “It might be worth flying around for a couple days to see if anyone complains, just to see if it works. It might be worth flying around for a couple days and see if anyone complains.”

Joseph Prete, a council member, said first that he appreciated that they were asking for permission and wanted to know how many helicopters they were planning on flying and how often.

Moser said they plan to have two four-seater, piston helicopters. Depending on how well the tours were received by the public, he said they would run approximately four tours an hour. The launch pad would be within the Sand Hollow State Park and initially be on asphalt.

Nanette Billings, a council member, said she liked the idea just not the location, adding that when she goes out on ATV’s or elk hunting that it’s “annoying” to have helicopters over you the whole time.

“I don’t think that the citizens and the people are going to want that over there,” she said.

Councilman Joseph Prete during the Hurricane City Council meeting on Thursday, February 6, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed

Prete said he was certain that this would be a successful business and would help to enrich the economy but, even still, only felt comfortable with allowing the program as a conditional use for a very short period to see the community’s response. He also mentioned that sand and helicopters aren’t necessarily a good mix.

But Moser said that the helicopters are actually relatively disruptive.

“These aren’t Black Hawks. They’re little. They are a lot smaller helicopters. And that’s why the pad size is actually quite a bit bigger than what’s recommended,” he said.

Bramall said he thought they should have some demonstration rides for the council, to which Moser and Hunt agreed. They plan to take City Council members out on helicopter rides within the next two weeks to give them a better understanding of what the tours would be like.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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