Helicopters Over Door

The Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport Commission voted 3-1 on Nov. 20 to move forward with a contract to allow helicopter tours to base at the Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport. The airport commission members raised concerns about moving forward too quickly while there were still questions to be answered.

“I would like to see the tour proposal before we go ahead with it. I don’t have a proposal in front of me to look at so I think we’re just one step ahead of where we should be,” said commission member Don Freix, who was the sole vote against the topic. Freix spoke on logistics such as number of tours per day and ways to mitigate noise concerns in the surrounding area.

Up North, a helicopter tour company based in Menominee, Mich., would lead tours around the peninsula during the busy season. Their pilot, Nathan Peters, saw the potential in the county while flying recreationally.

“I’m kind of a nature guy so I went over to Door County and was thrilled to see the place,” said Peters. After running several successful tours in Duluth, Minn., “I thought the model would work in Door County if it is done right.”

The vote by the airport commission will allow the creation of a proposal for Up North to review. The proposal will closely resemble the contract that Cherryland Airport had with Grizzly Scenic Tours based out of Sturgeon Bay. Grizzly previously operated using the Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport but has since moved their operation entirely to Sturgeon Bay. Peters saw this as an opportunity to provide tours based in Northern Door.

While giving the Village of Ephraim and Town of Gibraltar another tourism activity, the contract will also benefit the airport. Between the airport lease, gas sales and the potential to rent one of the airport hangars on the property, the airport would see a significant financial gain.

Ephraim and Gibraltar will both have to approve the deal between Up North and the airport before the contract is finalized. “I’ve already talked to the village. They are in favor of this. But that was only one person. It was not the board of trustees,” said Airport Commission Chairman Jon Neville.

The commission cited potential problems in the tour company operation at the airport, with their greatest concern being loud noise for surrounding neighborhoods. Neville believes this will be addressed in the contract written up between the parties.

Peters, a four-year helicopter tour pilot, has seen this issue raised before. “If we have a complaint on noise we will remedy that. If we have to fly higher, we’ll fly higher. The goal is to make friends, not enemies,” said Peters.

The commission now must write a proposal for Up North before it goes to the Village of Ephraim and Town of Gibraltar for approval. The airport commission meets once a month and they hope to have a concrete proposal to bring to the municipalities by January.