A 10-year master plan is under development for the Garfield County Regional Airport to help guides its future development and ensure its $45 million economic impact remains strong, according to Airport Manager Brian Condie.
An open house to explain the draft master plan and gather public input was held at the airport on Thursday, Sept. 19. The plan is funded by a $150,000 state grant, Condie said, and will update the last master plan, completed in 2002. The new plan will also feature a 10-year business plan, something most small commuter airports like Garfield County don’t have, Condie noted.
The 615-acre airport operates with a annual budget of approximately $800,000, he said, and brings in another $500,000 through aviation fuel sales, landing fees and hangar leases.
The same 2008 Colorado Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics economic impact study of commercial and general aviation airports statewide that found Garfield County’s airport generated more than $45 million in economic impacts also found it helped lead to an $18 million payroll. Condie said that includes all airport-based businesses, including UPS, flight instructors and eight limousine companies.
“We handle about 7,000 jet aircraft a year, with about half of them diversions” from mountain airports in Aspen and Eagle that often can’t land aircraft due to winter snow storms, Condie said.
The single 7,000-foot by 100-foot runway is open 24 hours a day, with GPS, instrument landing systems and radio navigation, Condie added. A aircraft fly-in was held on Saturday, Sept. 21, to help educate pilots on the use and benefits of the airport’s guidance system, he said.
Dave Nafie, planning manager for Jviation of Denver, one of the master plan consultants, said the draft plan proposes additions such as 500-foot runway extension, with an estimated cost of $16.2 million. That would likely require land acquisition, rerouting Mamm Creek Road and other expensive steps, Nafie said.
“It would be a political decision, too,” he added. “You’d have to consider what the surrounding airports offer, and it would likely be a tough sell. But it’s there in the plan now.”
A plan advisory committee, including local pilots and other airport users, has had input into the plan, Nafie noted.
Other portions of the plan focused on future parking and roadway needs, a new building or terminal for the airport’s fixed base operator, which supplies fuel and aircraft services, and hangar development.
Jeff Kohlman, a principal with Aviation Management Consultant Group of Centennial, said the overall question with the plans is “what kind of airport does the county want in 10 years?”
“There hasn’t been much discussion of commercial service, but there has been a desire to keep adjacent land uses compatible with the airport,” he said.
How to bring more jobs and business investments was another area of discussion as the planning process, which began in December 2012, has proceeded, Kohlman added.
“The overall preference, I think, is to have a general aviation airport that is as financially self-sufficient as possible,” he said.
A new master and business plan for the airport is scheduled to be adopted by the county commissioners in June, Kohlman said, with revised draft versions released in about six months. Another open house is tentatively set for November or December, he noted.