One of the state’s most popular Easter weekend destinations is the Little Sahara Recreation Area – best known by residents as the Utah sand dunes.
The site is a Mecca for off-road vehicles and dune buggies but also a place where fun can lead to personal injury. Calls for help have become so common here, the Bureau of Land Management says it plans to unveil two brand new air ambulance landing pads this week that were built to improve medical response.
BLM spokeswoman Lisa Reid said the new installations will also improve safety.
“As much as we would love not having accidents, the truth of the matter is that we do," she said. "And we like to be able to provide the safest most effective medical service that we can, and having these two helipads is one way to do so.”
Reid says during high-use weekends, air ambulance calls are so frequent, Air Med helicopters are often stationed at the sand dunes for multiple days.
In the past, the aircraft have landed in dirt fields which can stir up dust and reduce visibility for the pilots. The new helipads fix this problem and are equipped with modern upgrades including lighting for night landings.
“What we had before was just areas where we had cleaned the sage brush and placed some gravel, but it did not reduce the amount of debris," added Reid. "These areas are made of concrete, they have rock around the edges, they're fenced in, and they have lights for night landings. They're just a huge addition.”
Reid says up to 30,000 visitors are expected at Little Sahara this weekend. She says the location, about 30 miles west of Nephi, goes from desolation to a booming tourist destination overnight. According to the BLM the helipads were built with federal funding.