My Side |

My Side

Steve Shute

Editor’s Note: The following is the first of three guest columns written by members of the Glenwood Springs Ad Hoc Airport Committee. The group was charged with envisioning future uses for the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport. Three ideas resulted: leaving the airport open, using the land for affordable housing and a park, or using the land for a new high school.

Two more guest editorials will follow in the coming days to explain the affordable housing and high school proposals.

“Why should we allow them to build new hangars? The airport will be surrounded by town, so it will have to be closed. Don’t want to give those spoiled flyboys any ideas that this airport is a long-term deal. …”

Sound familiar? We voted in 1997 to preserve the airport as a Developer-Free Zone, and now the debate has started again. Except that the yowling above was in the early 1970s, when aircraft owners wanted to improve the ratty old hangars.

On March 1, 1937, City Council created a municipal airport in Glenwood Springs. The 34 acres came in several parcels, mostly donated, and the work was done by eager workers with the WPA. The West was young, airplanes represented the future, and there were many, many places to go. An Ercoupe was coming to every garage.

Now that we’ve rocketed past the sky and left a used car on the moon, we’re a little more realistic. The Glenwood Springs Airport is used mostly by small business owners like myself. I’m a self-employed engineer, doing technical and safety stuff for tiny gas utilities all over the country. My clients are in remote places like Pinedale, Wyo.,and Wendover, Nev., and there are some places I just can’t get to, practically, any other way.

I co-own a single engine, 1968 Cessna Skylane. I’m not rich, it’s not fancy, but I don’t need much more. Like most pilots here, my plane is simply a tool like my computer and copier and my aged pickup.

We have over 50 aircraft based here, all singles and small twin-prop planes. Some of the pilots live in Carbondale and Basalt and Aspen (where the airport is decidedly not operated for small local planes). The Colorado Aeronautics Division has designated Glenwood Springs a critical “reliever” airport for Eagle and Aspen. We are also on the National Air Transportation Association list of America’s 100 Most Needed Airports, based on geography and demographics.

As a pilot, I’m concerned that our airport will close and an important component of my job will move to Rifle. We like our amenities here, not there. You might like the fact that Glenwood has schools and a hospital and parks and a Wal-Mart here, not in Rifle. For me, the airport is nearly as vital as those.

As an engineer and two-decade resident, I’m intrigued with the process of planning our town 50, 100, 200 years from now. I’ve traveled to very old places that never dreamed of trucks or 757’s, so new transportation projects are very painful when open land is gone. Will we need aircraft two centuries from now? How and where will they operate?

This airport is self-sustaining financially, and doesn’t cost the city anything. It is used by many of the businesses in the community. We have no other Flight-for-Life portal, and the firefighters and re-seeders used the airport extensively last summer. The runway is adequate and safe for the types of small aircraft using it.

We may eventually find a “killer application” for the airport land, one which is essential to the community and can’t be done on any other parcel. But until then, why destroy forever one of the amenities that makes this a well-rounded community?

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