Last weekend I was enjoying some time on a dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park — basking in the sun, taking in the sights, shooting pictures — when suddenly an irritating, high-pitched noise interrupted my quiet time. I turned around to see a drone, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), buzzing around the dunes, at one time flying low over me. It was annoying, disruptive and a violation of National Park Service rules. I wasn't happy about it, and later on I was happy to see the offending "pilot" in the hands of NPS law enforcement.
Our parks, whether they be city, county, state or national, are designed to be places to go to enjoy the outdoors with little or no noise or harassment. They are places to get away from it all
, and to that end, most park systems justifiably ban the use of drones over parks, regardless of where they're launched from.
I'm not a Luddite who hates new technology; far from it, actually. But I'm a person who, like many of you, goes outdoors on the trails so I'm not bothered by outside influences. Trails without cell phone service are among my favorite trails, and I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. I certainly don't want to hear the whine of a drone while I'm in a park or on a trail.
So, here are the rules:
Colorado Springs City
ordinances prohibit "...propelling of objects such as stones, arrows, javelins or model airplanes." While the ordinance doesn't specifically say "drones," the city's lawyers say they are included in this language. And there are plans to amend the city ordinance later this year to specifically include the word for the sake of clarity.
In El Paso County Parks
, newly adopted rules state "It shall be unlawful for any person to launch or fly rockets, model airplanes, or drones... in any park except in designated areas set apart for such forms of recreation."
In Colorado State Parks
, park rules state "It shall be unlawful to operate radio-controlled and/or fuel-propelled models, except in designated areas." "Radio-controlled models" interpreted to include drones. Asked during a phone call, a State Parks Law Enforcement official
stated flatly that the use of drones in parks is prohibited. Colorado law also forbids the use of drones in conjunction with hunting.
In an order issued in June of 2014, the National Park Service
prohibited drone use over all
property it controls. The prohibition, which is undergoing review and possible modification, was enacted after wildlife were harassed and drone noise disturbed visitors' enjoyment of national parks, among other transgressions.
There are exceptions to all these rules for governmental and commercial (with permit) use.
Parks are for peace and quiet and to enjoy the outdoor experience. Don't ruin the experience with your noisy, obtrusive drone. Leave it home.
Now for a bit of road and trail closure news:
Starting September 14th, the entire length of Mt Herman Road, from Rampart Range Road on the west to Red Rocks Drive on the east, along with all trails along the road, including the popular Mt Herman trail, will be closed for maintenance.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.