by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer
Photos by Cailey McDermott
Officials participate in flyover of Browns Canyon
Friends of Browns Canyon teamed up with EcoFlight, Aspen, to offer flyovers of the proposed national monument site to elected officials, business owners and the media.
Reed Dils, Friends of Browns Canyon board member, was the tour guide on each of the three flights. Bruce Gordon, who started EcoFlight in 2000, was the pilot. He is the president of the nonprofit membership organization EcoFlight and said the goal is to educate and advocate for the environment by using small airplanes. Gordon said he works with organizations with similar goals, like Friends of Browns Canyon, to inform politicians, media and residents about different conservation issues.
Because all places are unique, Gordon said he likes for the “land to speak for itself.” Gordon has been doing “conservation flying” for more than 30 years. He has flown all over the state for projects involving oil and gas development, clean air and water, watersheds, rivers and controversial subjects. Jim Osborne, Chaffee County commissioner candidate, flew on the second flight and said he enjoyed the flight – despite a little airsickness “here and there” near the end of the ride.
“From the air you can really see the ruggedness of the area. It’s not that big, but you can see it should be preserved as a wilderness area,” Osborne said. If designated as a national monument through the efforts of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), “Browns Canyon could be an economic boost for the count by attracting different people to explore the area,” Osborne said. Mayor Don Stephens said he has been recreating in the Browns Canyon area for 27 years, and as a professional rafting guide, he traveled the canyon about 500 times. “This flight showed the wildness of the area. It is a fantastic resource, and it would be great for people to be able to enjoy it for eons. I am supportive of permanent protection, and I think the people of Salida are supportive,” Stephens said. Commissioner Dave Potts said the flight was informative but said he hasn’t “committed to any (stance on the designation) yet.” Sam Bricker with Outside TV; Shawn Gillis, owner of Absolute Bikes; Potts; and Lindsey Levick with The Wilderness Society took the first flight. Matt Brown, Town & Country Dealerships owner; Osborne; Bill Donovan, Dangerous Collective; and a Mountain Mail reporter were on the second flight. Phillip Puckett, Buena Vista trustee; Stephens; Nikol Noll, campaign organizer for Friends of Browns Canyon; and Alan Robinson, executive director of Friends of Fourmile, took the third flight.