Neighbors want commission to deny clearance for resort to offer air tours

When complete, the Gateway Canyons Resort will feature a convention center, an intellectual community, a luxury lodge and many other amenities extending no more than one mile from the Gateway Post Office. Photo Special to the Sentinel/Bobby Magill

The occasional drone of a single-engine airplane coming in for a landing at Gateway Canyons Resort used to signal residents their wealthiest citizen, John Hendricks, was on the move.

Beginning next year, the same sound, plus the whir of helicopter rotors, will tell everyone a different story, one that many are apt to hear with displeasure.

Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery channel and owner of Gateway Canyons Resort, about 50 miles south of Grand Junction along Colorado Highway 141, had his private runway expanded from a length of 1,900 feet to 2,673 feet to accommodate helicopter and fixed-wing air tours. The tours could begin in the spring of 2010. By 2013 there could be 40 flights a month.

“That is why we moved out here to the country, to get away from that stuff,” said Mike Feathers, a former Gateway firefighter.

He suggested Hendricks use an old mile-long runway, built in the late 1940s, known as Doloras Point. The airstrip is four miles away from Gateway Canyon in Bureau of Land Management territory.

Using the old air field would keep planes and helicopters full of tourists from buzzing this narrow canyon, home to a couple hundred souls, Feathers said.

“It would be less intrusive on a lot of people if he would fly out of that one,” he said.
Fellow Gateway resident Rowena McLaughlin is also miffed.

“He doesn’t need to bring the airport right in over Gateway, and I don’t think he should be allowed to.”

The decision to allow air tours to operate from Hendricks’ personal flying field, which has been in operation for a decade, is the Mesa County Commission’s. Gateway Canyons
Resort has delayed the hearing twice. The last delay was for the resort to do a noise study for the proposed air-tour service.

The resort tentatively is scheduled to go before the Mesa County Planning Commission on March 12, and the County Commission March 24.

“All we are trying to do now is have the land-use right to use it commercially,” said John Williams, general counsel for the resort.

Williams said only a handful of residents are upset. Until now the personal flights Hendricks has made in and out of the canyon have been “without complaint,” Williams said. “I don’t think it has been bothersome to people in Gateway at all.”

Gateway residents Don and Susan Bowes said the noise bothers them so much they submitted a letter to the county objecting to the air tour operation. The Bowes wrote:

“Hendricks has no business flying commercial aircraft to and from his private landing strip.”
Williams said the air tours are just one more amenity for the resort and will not be as noisy as some residents fear.

“This will not be huge in numbers, and we will take flight paths that are not intrusive to the neighbors,” Williams said. “It is less noisy than traffic on the highway.”


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