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"When is an airport not an airport?"

Thursday, February 20, 2003

When is an airport not an airport?
By Cheryl Wade
The Midland (MI) Daily News

    GLADWIN Ė Gladwinís Zettel Memorial Airport will be just an airport if
all goes according to plan.

    In recent years, Little Leaguers and the Gladwin County Fair have used
airport property for baseball games and parking. Through a series of land
acquisitions and swaps, local officials have made clear divisions between
airport, Little League and fairgrounds land.

    For one reason, city and airport officials want to make the airport
friendlier to businesses, and safer. New grant money should help make that
so. The airport will receive $271,650 in federal money and $15,100 from the
state, plus local matching money of $15,100. The money will finish
constructing parallel taxiway for the airportís 4,700-foot runway.

    The airport has a partial taxiway, a 1,000-foot strip thatís parallel to
the runway, said Airport Manager Ken Becker. When a plane takes off, the
pilot taxis to one end of the runway, depending on wind direction. The paved
taxiway will eliminate the need to taxi on the runway, cutting back
congestion when more than one airplane uses the runway.

    Clearing the way for the new taxiway has been a complicated process. In
recent years, the state has urged local officials to move other community
programs off airport property. One such facility are the Gladwin Little
League fields, which will move from airport land to 55 acres next to the
airport. A county drain runs diagonally through the 55-acre parcel, and it
needs to be rerouted so it will flow across airport property, said City
Manager Robert McConkie. Thatís meant some feverish work to get engineers
for the sports facility, the airport and the drain commission working in
sync, and itís caused some frustrating delays, he said.

    But the delays seem to be resolving themselves.

    "The resolution to the drain is close at hand and we expect to move
(ahead) this summer with the sports complex and the airport improvements,"
McConkie said.

    Joe Myers, who heads the board overseeing the athletic complex project,
said he hopes bids will go to contractors in March and ground will be broken
in the spring. It will have a field for the junior football league, several
soccer fields and four fields for menís and womenís softball, plus about
eight Little League fields.

    Myers said heís worked on the project at least two years and received
the communityís help.

    "The community has really understood that they needed to solve the
problem," he said.

    The fairgrounds horse arena and parking area are on airport land as
well, although the arena probably wonít have to be moved because it wonít
conflict with the airportís development during the next five years, Becker
said. Eventually, fair board president and county commissioner Keith Edick
said, the parking area could be moved to fairgrounds land thatís now part of
the Little League fields. The fairgrounds already has moved its campground
off airport land, he said.

    Dura Automotive Systems, which has a plant in Gladwin, lands at the
airport one or two dozen times a year, and the number could increase
slightly, said the companyís chief pilot, Larry Adams. He believes a longer
runway would help his company more than the taxiway.

    The planes need a 5,000-foot runway, although they can use Gladwinís
shorter one if they fly in and out with a light load. So, passengers using
Gladwinís airport are the first ones to be picked up and the last to be
dropped off, and sometimes they donít like it, Adams said.

Attached Photo:

For years Gladwin Little Leaguers have tallied their balls and strikes while
playing on diamonds located at the Gladwin Zettel Memorial Airport. A new
sports facility is in the works which will move the ball fields to a 55-acre
plot next to the airport, giving the airport room to expand.


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