Sat, July 20

<CENTER><B>Letters to the Editor</B></CENTER>

Casino robs Camp Verde of clear night sky


I moved to Arizona three and a half years ago to start living out a dream.

I am a pilot and chose the Montezuma Heights Airpark at Camp Verde as the location of this dream. Camp Verde is a central location to Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. The location has changes in seasons with the beauty of the mountains and, of course, the red rocks of Sedona nearby.

To this day, I still enjoy standing in my yard and taking in the beautiful sunsets and changing scenery that the clouds give to the terrain.

About two and a half years ago, the Cliff Castle Casino started construction of its new casino at the top of the mesa against the fence of the airpark. In the process, they installed parking lot lighting that has eliminated the night sky to the northeast of the airpark. Along with the parking lot came cars and trucks. With those cars and trucks came controlled and uncontrolled engine noises and radios playing a deep bass sound.

Then came the Stargazer Pavilion – the outdoor theater. This structure took a lot of thinking to construct because the stage and large speakers point directly at the airport and local community. The airpark consist mainly of residents that have retired here to enjoy all that this community has to offer. Loud music at night is not one of the benefits.

Then, a couple of months ago, the casino installed multiple searchlights on top of the building. These lights rotate in a circular pattern directly over my house and the airpark every night. This removes any thought of a remote chance of having a night sky.

The reason for this letter is to inform all necessary parties of the injustice that is happening here in Camp Verde with the hopes of correcting this travesty. The night skies should be just that – night skies, not light skies. The searchlights are on every night directed over my house and the airpark so as to shine on the northbound traffic of Interstate 17.

These lights are very bright. They can be seen easily coming through Copper Canyon on Interstate 17. As a pilot, I am very concerned about these lights for many reasons: Safety, safety and safety. Some of the pilots here have to fly in and out at night and the searchlights are within the flight patterns of the airport.

The airline companies publish magazines on a continual basis to promote safe operation and in these publications are articles pertaining to spatial disorientation. Spatial disorientation is the false sensation of position, motion, or attitude of an aircraft within the fixed coordinate system provided by the surface of the earth and the gravitational vertical. I have felt the effects of vertigo, heard of pilots pointing the nose of their aircraft down because of seeing the moon reflection on a lake and thinking they were in fact climbing and wondering why JFK Jr. flew his airplane into the ocean.

Night lights can cause false horizons and it is easy to become fixated at a light and distracted even for a very short time. These distractions on a winding road and in the air late a night could cause a dangerous situation that the Arizona Highway Patrol and the Federal Aviation Administration should investigate.

A casino representative has said in the past that they (Cliff Castle Casino) wants to work with us as good neighbors. I don’t ever know when good neighbors would shine their lights and loud speakers at their good neighbors. I can remember a time not long ago in Waco, Texas, when the government was trying to end a standoff and they used searchlights and loud music to torture the residents of their compound and drive them out.

The Stargazer Pavilion should have faced to the northeast in a direction away from all homes in this community. Searchlights, from what I remember, are used for a premiere of an event and not left on every night pointed into the eyes of oncoming traffic, nor should the searchlights be on when aircraft are in a landing or taking-off pattern about the airport.

I understand that the casino is on their ground and that they are a sovereign nation, but that has to stop at the fence. The noise and lights have to be at an acceptable level when they cross the property lines and the traffic patterns for the airport.

Robert A. Martino

Camp Verde