SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aerial drones are being banned from a Scottsdale land preserve known for 135 miles of popular hiking trails, rock-climbing and other recreation.
The Scottsdale City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance that will prohibit hobbyist drone operators from the 30,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve, The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/2cU9kDK ) reported.
In a meeting Tuesday, officials declared the ordinance would begin Oct. 20.
They say model aircraft will still be permitted in most city parks.
Officials say drones are a public-safety concern in the remote, desert area and may have a negative impact on wildlife.
“I think if you were on a bike traversing trails and you hear something come over your head, you might be startled by that,” said Scottsdale Community Services Director Bill Murphy. “The same holds true for someone on a horse.”
He said the city drafted the ordinance taking into account possible complications with fighting wildfires as well as drone restrictions at national parks.
Scottsdale police will enforce the ordinance.
A first-time offender faces fines between $50 and $300. A second-time offense could result in a misdemeanor charge.
“It’s actually the safest place to fly in all of Scottsdale,” said Robert Abbott, a radiologist and U.S. Air Force veteran who is among the few to fly drones regularly at the preserve. “You can’t do any damage, and it’s beautiful.”
Abbot said he follows local and federal rules and keeps his drone away from people and horses.
He says he wonders why the city didn’t study the impact of drones in the area before drafting the ban.
“They’re prohibiting flying because of a perceived threat, not a real threat,” Abbott said. “Horseback riders and mountain bikers do more damage to the desert than drone flyers.”
Phoenix Drone User Group organizer Bill Mar expressed concern.
“This idea of closing off the preserve like it’s Yosemite was just ridiculous,” Mar said. “This is nothing more than a veiled way of keeping people out of the preserve so the people in northern Scottsdale have a better view of the desert.”
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com