Will We See A New Helipad Near Irwin? ~
Last Friday Eleven Experience went before the Gunnison County Planning Commission requesting a permit to operate a helicopter pad near the Irwin Townsite. Eleven’s attorney, David Leinsdorf, claims “It’s just to bring in customers, We’re not applying for helicopter operations. We’re asking for a helipad so that other operators can use it.”
This request brings up many questions such as; What kind of impact will this have on wildlife and neighbors? What kind of noise pollution will this bring? Will the helicopters be able to be used to aid in wilderness rescue? What hours of operation? Why can’t pilots just land in Gunnison? And probably the big one on many of our minds… Does this mean Eleven has future plans for heli-skiing operations?
Managing Director for Eleven, Jake Jones, explained that the current plan is that other operators will be flying their clients in from locations such as Aspen and Telluride for the day to their location at Scarps Ridge.  He also indicated that landing in Gunnison is just too inconvenient. As far as the hours of operation, since helicopter pilots rely on line-of-sight to fly, they will only be operating during daylight hours. Planning Commissioner Kent Fulton asked, “Have you contacted the U.S. Forest Service regarding impacts to wildlife?”  to which assistant community development director, Neal Starkebaum, replied, “I have contacted the Forest Service to see if they have any concerns or comments and they said they have neither.”
It was agreed that a site visit would be beneficial to see the proposed helipad site location and help envision how their plan will work with several flights a day coming into our rugged mountain location. Eleven will be working with county officials to make this site visit happen within the next few weeks, even if they have to take a snowcat in.
Though there are still a lot of questions to be answered, Eleven insists that they have no plans to develop their own helicopter operations or begin offering heli-skiing to their clients. At least that’s what they are saying for now.
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