Turf War: Gliders vs. Gravel Miners

Group of hang-gliders and paragliders are pushing back against a mining company's digging plans.
3:00 | 10/05/13

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Transcript for Turf War: Gliders vs. Gravel Miners
Tonight, we fatake you on an adventure to one of the most beautiful places in america. If you ever wondered what it is look to take flight at point of the mountain utah, you can find out. This national treasure may disappear completely if a mining company gets its way. My colleague bill weir takes to the skies above a fragile world whose future is in the air. Reporter: For the average adrenaline addict there are countless ways to mock gravity, no shortage of flying machines to fall out of, or ramps to jump or ledges to leap. There are few places a person can step off the earth and into the sky and stay there for hours. Very few places where land and air meet with such harmony, where smooth ridge juts into clockwork wind so perfectly both bird and human can catch a free ride with equal ease. And this is, this may be the best such place in the world. When I was a kid, I would dream about flying all the time. And you would have to run fast and jump in the air you. Could fly. And here we can do that. We run really fast. You didn't have to run that fast. That's true. You have wind. You don't have to run that fast. How incredible state. Point of the mountain utah, most days send a rye out of color wings in the sky above sprawling suburbs of salt lake city. Much the way scuba divers have the great barrier reef, and climbers cling to yosemite. This place has been a mecca of fliers ever since glider pilots trained here before world war ii. And as glider sports took off, those generations of fliers earn their wings here, some finding spots among the best aerial stunts and air battteams. Others dropping by to taste a new kind of freedom. When you are in a wheelchair you feel look you are in a wheelchair. This, you feel like the pilots out there. Being back in it makes me feel more like myself than a lot of other everyday things. Reporter: Director of sports and recreation for pair litzed veterans. One of two places where people can safely train and novices have flown from this spot. From 1-year-old to a 97-year-old lady to. Go up and share, free flight with somebody and hear them giggle and laugh and smile and cry, is really special to me. And i, I love that. And I don't want to seep it disappear. Reporter: Wait? Disappear. How and why would a mountain disappear? That is a controversial question around these parts. To get the answer in the most vivid way possible I am offered a tandom flight with bill, one of the most accomplished glider pilots in north america. I can't see what is going on behind me but it feels exciting. We rise over the neighboring houses into the utah sky with a burst of pure, uncut exhilaration. Oh, yeah. Dang, this its great. Welcome to my office. But as we head towards the southern end of the park in the sky, the landscape between my feet suddenly changes from high desert scrub brush to bulldozed wasteland. We look down on the reason for their concern. A mining company called geneva rock. In an ironic twist, this world class flying spot sits on world class sand and gravel. And geneva rock wants to take as much of it as the they can get. Was there a moment when one day you went up and said, wait a minute the bull dozers are closer than last year? Absolutely. March of this year. The bulldozers started pushing dirt overnight. Ened of two days, tim of the mountain was gone. Jolted into acts, the fliers began digging through public record and stunned to discover the mining company actually owns most of this land. And plans to eventually bulldoze point of the mountain into a dusty pit. Mining away their precious wind in the process. We are trying to raise aware nchlts ness if we don't do something it will be gone before we know it. Reporter: This community of wind walkers knew it would be hard to rally outrage over a niche sport few will ever try in a state with so much mining. But then came the dust. As geneva rock expanded their operation here, it kicked up tons of the stuff. As desiree's video show, on a windy day it can reach downtown salt lake city. Suddenly this band of fliers found it easier to again up support of their dust covered neighbors and the utah physicians for a healthy environment. In addition to the health consequence of inhaling this, these fine particles of death, there is almost undoubted ly silica, like inhaling barbed wire. A damning claim, not yet proven by air tests. A reason to visit it geneva mine. Do you think your business gets a bad rap. No one has ever gone goody there is a gravel mine moving into the neighborhood. Sometimes I wish I had a cannedy store. I've don't think people come plane about candy stores. Reporter: That is carl clyde. His grandfather started geneva rock when eisenhower started building highways. His family helped turn mountains into sky lines. If you look at the buildings and see the skyline, here is where it came from. Came from here. It is such a necessary business when I seep ki kids on the skateboard park, that's their recreation. As the the community grew closer to the mine, so did the chorus of complaints. Five years ago, without admitting guilt, geneva rock was form forced to cough up $1.7 million in fines and improvements. After caught violating air quality standard. The company says they have not received a major infraction since. Clyde insists they're going above and beyond to control the dust. Including the use of precious water shot through giant sprinklers. He says since his product is used in sandboxes, playground, sand traps, on golf courses there is no dangerous silica to worry about. It is a safe product. Itch it wasn't safe all the government reg laulators that regulate our business they wouldn't allow us. Cold comfort for the wind riders. When I show him their pamphlet, he confirms their worst fears. Just future property that we want to mine there. You do want to mine there? We want to mine. I support their sport. A very interesting sport. I like watching it. Probably not as courageous as you are I guess. Reporter: If this were a movie this is where the mining executive takes a flight, changes his mind and everyone lives happily ever after. But for the moment all parties await an official wind study with promises from county officials to find some solution in coming months. Ething in life about balance. We have to be creative. Find a way to work together. It is a very special place. And, once it is gone you can't get it back. The whole purpose of our organization is to get them to do the land swap or work out a reasonable land spur chpurchase price. If they will swap you this land for less desirable gravel pits. We have to look at it. You would think about it. It might be deep sire asirable. Off awe mr Reporter: Thirere its plenty of sky. I ask people, do you like mountains. This mountain as it but to disappear. If you like hiking, mountain biking you should care about this mountain here. After this mountain, which is next?

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