Citizens stand up for community airport

February 18, 2010

After a Vermont senator proposed shutting down John H. Boylan State Airport in Island Pond to have more space for a wood pellet plant, the fate of the airport may come down to one thing: the opinion of its neighbors.

Scores of supporters from the community turned out for a Senate Institutions Committee hearing Feb. 11 to urge the Senate to preserve the 2,650-foot turf runway that serves Island Pond. After the developers spoke about their anticipated use for airport land, not one member of the audience spoke in favor of a bill that would close the airport.

“This is yet another example of average American citizens holding their public officials accountable for what they believe is in the best interest of their community and the local airport,” said AOPA Northeast Regional Representative Craig Dotlo.

Vermont Sen. Vincent Illuzzi proposed the bill, S.180, which would sell the airport to Vermont Biomass Energy Company and direct the owners of hangars on the property to fold up shop. Proponents of the bill claim that the project to be located at the former Ethan Allen plant will need the surrounding acreage—including the airport—for a logging yard, but many of the 90 people in attendance at the hearing asked the state to find another way. Possible alternatives include leasing the unused part of airport property to the pellet plant.

The overwhelming community support breathed life into the effort to save the airport, which had suffered a setback when the FAA advised that the state was not legally bound to keep the airport open. Local citizens proved that legal obligation is not the only way to save an airport; the community can bolster the cause by offering its support.