... And Keeping Current Airfields Alive

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The irony is that even as airports grow more and more congested, GA airports around the country are being shut down, victims of rising development pressures and neighborhood complaints. But in one small town in Michigan, champagne corks were popping last week after a judge's decision saved Wilderness Airpark, near Kent City. The airpark's only runway was growing effectively shorter and shorter as a neighbor's trees grew higher and higher, till it reached a point where closure was imminent. "The trees were so tall that they penetrated the 'approach protection area,'" said Rick Durden, the aviation lawyer (and AVweb columnist) who argued the case. The state's Aeronautics Code makes anything encroaching on the approach protection area a public nuisance, Durden said. The judge agreed, and ordered the neighbor to trim the trees, saving the runway. Wilderness Airpark is a half-mile-long, grass airport in western Michigan. Originally built in 1978 as a private, residential airport, it was designated a public-use airport in 1984. The judge ruled that the neighbors had purchased their land after the airport had become public and the approach protection area had become effective and they knew the runway was adjacent to their land, so they must comply with the Aeronautics Code and not allow trees to grow up into the approach area.