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Grand Haven’s airport has value beyond dollars

Tribune Staff • Jul 30, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Even small planes require a lot of land and airspace.

Pilots at Grand Haven Memorial Airport say they use every inch of its two runways, and shrinking the airport would create a safety concern and limit operations.

The local Chamber of Commerce wants the City of Grand Haven to look into rezoning the north-south runway to allow for commercial industry to expand on the land. The Chamber produced a study suggesting a $600 million economic impact if the runway were converted and used by industry.

We hope officials consider the existing economic benefits of the airport, and what downsizing the airport could mean for safe takeoffs and landings.

The north-south runway is often used during dangerous north-south crosswinds. It typically accounts for 15-20 percent of activities, but in February was used for half of operations. The runway is used frequently to train student pilots. Events at the airport provide a free spark of imagination for children dreaming of flight.

The desire to keep manufacturing in Grand Haven is understandable. The industry has been looking elsewhere for commercially zoned real estate.

But while commercial development stagnates, more pilots are choosing Grand Haven. Fuel sales are taking off. Skydive Grand Haven has doubled its hanger space. Investors and clients come through the airport to do business.

What happens if you take away half of the airport’s ability to support those activities? The logistics don’t appear promising.

Scaling back the airport is unlikely to get off the ground in the first place. A federal funding agreement prevents closure of the airport for decades into the future.

We don’t imagine anyone thinks sunsets on the pier are only good for tourist dollars, or that downtown restaurants are only worth their weight in property taxes. Community assets like the airport have value beyond their price tags and are worth preserving.

Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Fritz said it best at a recent meeting: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Duncan MacLean and Alexander Sinn. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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