Knowing the true value of an airport requires a measure deeper than dollars, and the turf strip at Hay Springs Municipal in northwest Nebraska is a case in point.
The city council recently voted to call a hearing on closing the airport, a small strip that brings a lot of value to its community AOPA Airport Policy Manager John Collins wrote in a March 8 letter to Mayor Ron Housh, making a case that the 2,750-foot turf strip represents more than the “return on investment” local taxpayers get for supporting the field. In addition to offering pilots one of the state’s 12 public-use turf runways, Hay Springs Municipal provides an alternative to commercial airports in Scottsbluff ( more than two hours away by ground) and Grand Island (nearly six hours away by car). Collins said the airport allows hunters to get close to their favorite grounds, and also enables easy access to Hay Springs for local families and businesses.
“From your small airport, an aircraft can go much farther than you imagine,” Collins wrote. “As we like to say, a mile of road only gets you a mile, but a mile (or half mile in your case) of runway can get you the world.”
Local pilots (and members) called AOPA for backup when the city began considering the closure, and are urging local officials to call off further consideration of such a move. AOPA will stand with them.
AOPA recognizes the challenge of supporting an airport in tough times, but Collins urged city leaders to consider that a lack of a measurable dollar return on investment does not preclude maintaining roads. “We strongly urge you to adopt the same mindset with respect to your airport and continue to keep it open and available.”
Collins noted free resources available from the Airport Cooperative Research Program that can help municipal leaders better manage any airport, including tips on developing and leasing airport property, marketing the airport as a local asset, and finding innovative ways to generate revenue.