Chamber discusses airport plan

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2005

Those at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce weekly luncheon were amused when a pale-faced, redhead in a famous yellow jumpsuit appeared. Ronald McDonald, who was in town for an open house in Kenai on Wednesday, greeted members at Paradisos while providing festive humor before quickly departing.

After lunch, representatives of Kenai businesses devoted their attention to Tom Middendorf, project manager with DOWL Engineers, an Anchorage-based team comprised of aviation specialists.

Middendorf has been working with the Kenai City Council and the Kenai Municipal Airport Commission for the past 15 months to form a Kenai Municipal Airport Supplemental Planning Assessment.

“I want you to know you may have a little problem, but your airport really has a lot of very strong positives that really would be the envy of many other airports,” he said.

He said some of the positives include qualified airport management, ownership of a lot of land, money in the bank and good air service with Grant and Era Aviation.

“You really have a lot of strengths that you should feel happy about,” he said.

DOWL was asked to come in and evaluate the airport. Specialists looked at various items, including airport financing, the airport land leasing program, facility issues and long-range planning, and forming a strategic vision of what direction the airport should take in the future.

“We looked at some ways to help fine tune the airport,” Middendorf said.

The group looked at ways to form goals for facility improvements; on the paved and gravel runways as well as the floatplane access and taxiways. Making sure there is land left for long-term use in the future is an important issue, Middendorf said.

“You have a lot of land, but a lot of it is being, you might say, gobbled up by community development,” he said.

The goal of the group is to provide a mission statement, designating the airport to be the commercial air transportation gateway to the Kenai Peninsula Borough and west Cook Inlet.

A vision statement of the airport — a spinoff of the previous mission — outlines a strong air transportation center with passenger and cargo air carriers serving multiple destinations, general aviation facilities and services supported by well-managed land-side development programs that will generate long-term revenue streams and protect airport environs from encroachments of incompatible land uses.

“That was the goal of the group to have air service to multiple destinations,” Middendorf said.

In the facility planning, Middendorf said there were four different areas DOWL was asked to look at, one being runway length.

The facility’s 7,575 foot runway is longer than just about any other airport in Alaska with the exception of King Salmon, international airports and Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Middendorf said users indicated existing length is adequate and expanding the runway would have little positive end result in the near future.

He reviewed the extensive plan with chamber members and discussed possible changes in the near future. In the long-term, he said possible items could include the potential to extend floatplane facilities, a proposed northeast air park to maximize use of remaining land and removal of existing gravel strip.

Kenai and the DOWL team will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Kenai City Hall. A presentation of the assessment will be held at 7 p.m. and a question-and-comment session will follow.

The meeting is the last one scheduled, and comments from the public will be accepted through Dec. 1.

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