Officials of a Minnesota county touched off a groundswell of reaction in the state’s general aviation community when they suggested that a popular local strip might be closed or have its funds cut. But after discussion at a well-attended public meeting, the dialogue headed in a new and encouraging direction.
AOPA joined other organizations including the Minnesota Pilots Association, the Recreational Aviation Foundation, and the Bemidji Chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association in coming to the defense of Bowstring Airport, a 2,531-foot grass strip owned by Itasca County.
On May 2, airport advocates turned out for a county commissioners’ meeting at which the airport was up for discussion—a session that resulted in new official focus on the airport and a better appreciation of its significance to the region’s GA pilots and the community.
“In the end, the meeting served to re-establish communications between the county and the airport commission along with MN-DOT,” Jeff Russell, an RAF member who flew in from Wisconsin to attend, wrote in a summary shared with the Minnesota Pilots Association. “The perceived threat of closure is now gone, and the airport even learned of additional funding that was available from MN-DOT. It appears that the future of the airport is on an even better path.”
The show of strength at the commissioners’ meeting wasn’t the full extent of actions the aviators took on the airport’s behalf on meeting day. Pilots also held an impromptu fly-in at Bowstring Airport, with 15 aircraft flying in to the field and about 40 airport supporters turning out, said Kyle Lewis, AOPA's Great Lakes regional manager.
“When a call to action to save an airport is issued the aviation community will come out in strong force,” he said. “The Minnesota Department of Transportation is also in support of the airport and has offered to assist with future grant funding to provide equipment to maintain the airfield. The county commissioners are in favor of keeping the airport open and are looking at ways to maintain the funding level for the airstrip.”
Baker noted in his letter—which was widely distributed among aviation advocates—that in addition to Bowstring Airport’s economic benefits and potential use as an emergency runway, maintaining the popular grass strip will help maintain a traditional form of flight into the future.
“Minnesota is home to a style of aviation that allows for unique opportunities that pilots cannot find anywhere else in the country,” he wrote. “This is an opportunity for the county administration to keep an aviation tradition alive and accessible for future generations of aviation.”