All these many decades I’ve enjoyed and loved Rocky Mountain National Park for its serene beauty, majestic peaks, fascinating wildlife, and beckoning trails. Sure, I’ve chafed at the crowds that gather near the roads in the parking areas and at scenic overlooks, but I always remind myself that they too, are enjoying the park. As a child and even now when I get away from the crowds and make my way down some obscure little trail where the only sound is a few birds, the wind in the pines, and the crunch of gravel underfoot, I imagine that it must have been something like this for the early Indians and trappers who moved through the same forest. I imagine that I’m back in time and one of them. Until I look up and see jet contrails crisscrossing the sky above. Those certainly weren’t part of the picture back in the 1800s and earlier.
I never missed, or even thought about, what wasn’t there. Noise pollution. Helicopters. I can’t imagine anything more jarring, intrusive, and totally destructive of my best moments in the park than a helicopter full of tourists suddenly appearing over the ridge or skimming the treetops overhead. Even in the city, at least once a week, their distinctive whup-whup-whup beats the air around my house, rattling the windows and drowning out every other sound.
I railed some months back about the unacceptable noise produced by private drones. I can’t imagine the cacophony of low-flying helicopters with their distinctive sounds and vibrations bouncing off Rocky’s mountainsides, resonating down valleys and across meadows and lakes.
But thankfully there are no commercial helicopters ruining the tranquility of Rocky. And there never will be. In 1995, in response to increasing pressure from tourism operators, the League of Women Voters of Estes Park launched a campaign called “Ban the Buzz” and succeeded in getting a law passed in 1998 that bans forever all commercial air tours in Rocky. By an Act of Congress, Rocky is the only national park in the country with such a ban.
The ban is critically important and well worth celebrating, as it will be on July 15:
On this special day and in conjunction with World Listening Day, the National Park Service, Natural Sounds and Night Sky Division, and the League of Women Voters of Estes Park, will be presenting an entire day of activities built around the appreciation of silence and the celebration of this distinct honor.
Thank you, LWV, for saving my park.