April 25--The sounds of airplanes taking off may soon mingle with the sounds of children playing if an idea to build a playground at Frederick Municipal Airport becomes a reality.
The Airport Owners and Pilots Association came to the airport commission meeting Thursday to ask for its support on a project to build a playground with the nonprofit organization Kaboom.
The idea is still in its infancy, but the AOPA's vice president of strategic philanthropy, Stephanie Kenyon, told the commission that the association was interested in building equipment on the property as a way to make the airport a more friendly place and project a positive image of general aviation.
Kaboom is an organization that normally helps communities build playgrounds in low-income areas. Building a playground at an airport would be a first for the company, Kenyon said. It would use Frederick as a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of putting up equipment at other airports.
The AOPA estimates the project will cost $175,000 for project management and materials. The association agreed to pay all of the costs related to the construction.
"We are willing to completely, 100 percent willing, to fund this project," Kenyon said.
The AOPA would also be willing to pay the cost of maintaining the equipment, she added, but city staff would probably need to do the legwork.
The structure would be built by volunteers, and possibly placed between the flight school and the Airways Inn.
AOPA and Kaboom would choose a nonprofit in the Frederick area that serves children and ask them to draw their dream playground.
"The idea is, whatever they come up with, it will be incorporated into the design of the playground," Kenyon said.
Committees formed from the community would be responsible for designing the playground, drawing inspiration from the children's ideas.
Kenyon suggested aviation themes and additions that would allow visitors to learn more about airport operations, such as a speaker system that taps into the tower or a display with information about the history of the airport. The committee gave its blessing to the project, voting unanimously to offer its support.
"I think it's a great idea. My grandchildren -- they're ready to go," said Art Dee, commission president.
Some members of the public also expressed support for it.
"I think Frederick airport is a perfect place for it," former airport manager Charlie Abell said.
The commission encouraged the AOPA to make sure that safety is always at the forefront of the planning process.
Commissioner and Landmark Aviation general manager Steve Southworth suggested acrylic glass or some kind of solid fencing to keep dust from blowing in children's eyes when airplanes are near.
Dee asked Kenyon if she knew of any liability issues at other airports that have playgrounds. She responded that she was not aware of any.
Any construction would need to go through the city of Frederick's normal planning processes, but if the playground plans are in place by June, Kenyon said the project might be able to be built by late September.
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