A unanimous vote by the Whitefish Township Council has cleared another hurdle standing between local advocate James Stabile’s dream and the reality of building Michigan’s first new airport in more than four decades.
With strong support from AOPA, which presented a letter to local officials in advance of the July 5 vote, the effort to establish a general aviation airport in Paradise, Mich., now turns to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which must provide land for the envisioned 3,500-foot runway and FBO to be realized.
In addition to opening a new gateway to a community that relies heavily on tourism for its survival, the airport would play a critical role in preparing for—and responding to—disasters. GA airports are vital to supporting medical evacuation, law enforcement, and firefighting operations, as Great Lakes Regional Manager Bryan Budds noted in the June 11 letter. The recent Duck Lake fire was spotted by law enforcement aviators, and aerial firefighters responded quickly, slowing the fire’s progress while ground units deployed, Budds noted. The July 5 vote, while not the final word, was a major step forward for Stabile’s 30-year effort.
“Mr. Stabile has worked tirelessly on this project for many, many years and now there is a bit more light at the end of the tunnel,” Budds said. “Clearly, there is more work to be done, but garnering the support of the Township is a huge step forward.”
AOPA is making a case around the country for the value of GA airports, which foster economic development and help create jobs, among other benefits to the communities they serve. Paradise, located in a prime bird watching, hunting, and sport diving area (it is the closest shore point to many prominent Great Lakes shipwrecks), is also nearly two hours by car from Sanderson Field in Sault Ste. Marie.