Talks seen opening Florida airstrip to public

April 10, 2013

Blackwater Airfield

A state-owned airfield in the Florida Panhandle could become a recreational destination for pilots if the nonprofit Recreational Aviation Foundation and the Florida Forest Service complete an expected agreement on access in the next few months.

The Montana-based Recreational Aviation Foundation says a “let’s find a way” approach has prevailed during discussions about aircraft access to Blackwater Airfield, a 4,000-foot former firefighting grass airstrip in the Blackwater River State Forest. The Recreational Aviation Foundation arranged a weekend fly-in at the strip in March.

Blackwater Airfield

A request for access was first raised two years ago by two local pilots. The discussions—now described as entering a final phase—mark the first such talks between the Recreational Aviation Foundation and a state forest management unit, said the organization, which usually works on access issues with federal land managers.

The strip is located about 100 yards from the Krul Lake Recreational Area, with a campground, swimming lake, and shower and restroom facilities. Nearby, visitors can fish, hike, canoe, or go horseback riding.

The March fly-in brought more than 60 visitors to Blackwater Airfield, airport designation 8FD3, in a variety of aircraft. A volunteer work party performed maintenance, painted runway markers, filled pot holes, and set up wind indicators, the group said.

“I think it’s safe to say that no more than a handful of recreational airstrips in the country offer the amenities of the Blackwater,” said Tim Clifford, a Recreational Aviation Foundation director and a Florida resident. "If you were to define the ideal recreational aviation destination this would be it.”

The foundation hopes to announce a final agreement with the Florida Forest Service in a few months.

“This is going to be a great place for folks to visit for years to come,” said pilot Gary Brooks, who, with fellow pilot Drew Hatch, first raised the possibility of getting access to the strip.