Ambitious Plan Calls for $10-Million Upgrade to Camas, Wash., Airport

Grove Field, a general aviation airport in Camas, would undergo $10.5 million in upgrades outlined in a preliminary 20-year master plan that also includes a controversial proposal to relocate a nearby 57-lot mobile home park.


Sep. 12--CAMAS, Wash. -- Grove Field, a general aviation airport in Camas, would undergo $10.5 million in upgrades outlined in a preliminary 20-year master plan that also includes a controversial proposal to relocate a nearby 57-lot mobile home park.

Conceived by a local advisory committee working for the Port of Camas-Washougal, which owns Grove Field, the draft recommendations come from a Federal Aviation Administration-funded study. Already, the recommendations have created a divide between supporters of airport upgrades and nearby residents, including people living in Oak Meadows Mobile Home Park, who could be forced to move if the changes are adopted.

The proposal comes as Clark County is about to lose Evergreen Airport in east Vancouver to a $170 million mixed-use development. The only other general aviation airport in Clark County is Pearson Field, but there are limits on its use under an agreement with the National Park Service, which owns part of the site.

In a county that once had a half-dozen public-use airports, the diminished facilities are a matter of concern. The area is considered a stronghold for aviation because of its convenience to the Portland metropolitan area and attractiveness to recreational pilots.

The advisory committees master-plan recommendations will be the topic of a public meeting beginning at 7 p.m., Sept. 21, at Camas High School theater. No decisions will be made. Port Executive Director Sheldon Tyler said no timetable has been set for port commissioners to act on the recommendations.

Grove Field, with about 50 acres on the west side of Northeast 267th Avenue in Camas, operates as a general aviation airport under the ports authority. With 79 hangars and four tie-downs, it is used by private pilots, most of whom are recreational fliers, as opposed to pilots flying commercial aircraft or corporate jets. The port maintains that on that basis, it is safe.

Jim Gray, whose term as president of the 75-member Camas-Washougal Aviation Association just ended, sees the proposed changes as making the operation safer.

The draft changes would bring the airport up to minimum FAA safety standards, if the port district opts to pursue agency funding for upgrades. FAA funding could pay for 95 percent of the improvements, with the rest to be shared by the state and the local port district. But some opponents fear the changes would open the door to bigger, noisier planes and more air traffic. The Washington Department of Transportations Aviation Division estimated that in 2002, there were 7,000 flights through Grove Field.

Changes under consideration:

--Extend the runway 350 feet, to 2,970 feet, to accommodate the majority of small aircraft with fewer than 10 passenger seats.
--Either relocate Delp Road west of the proposed runway extension area, or tunnel a portion of it through the extended runway and taxiways.
--Shift the runways alignment slightly south to attain the FAAs required 150-foot distance between it and the taxiway. Also, widen the runway by 20 feet, from 40 feet to the FAAs recommended 60 feet.
--With the other runway changes, increase the pavements weight-bearing strength to 12,500 pounds to meet the FAAs guideline for small aircraft.
--Increase the easement the port holds on the north taxiway to 25 feet, from 20 feet, to meet FAA design standards. Also the FAA has requested a southern parallel taxiway be provided for, since most of the airplane movement takes place on that side.
--Build three new buildings: a 20-by-20-foot pilots lounge east of the fuel tank, a 50-by-50-foot hangar building that could be used for maintenance or other aviation activities, and a 60-by-100-foot specialty shop that would be south of the new hangar building.

The acquisition of Oak Meadows Mobile Home Park, which also includes 14 recreational-vehicle lots, is foremost on the committees list of needed changes, with airplanes clearing it by just 20 to 25 feet, said Paul Cannon, a non-pilot resident of the area who chairs the Grove Field Airport Advisory Committee. The mobile home park is within a designated Grove Field protection zone.

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