Airport: Use it or lose it?
Sep 06, 2012 | 2468 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Selectboards in Wilmington and Dover this week were each presented with a broad proposal to expand the Mount Snow Airport (See related stories, pages 2 and 3). We’ve always thought the airport was one of the most underutilized assets the valley possesses. We certainly support the general concept of expanding the airport and increasing its use.

There is no doubt that something needs to be done with the airport. Anyone who has visited the airport recently has found an essentially shuttered facility, with peeling paint on the terminal and hangers, and weeds creeping across the runway. If the current owner is unwilling or unable to invest in the airport, then indeed something needs to be done or we as a region will lose it.

The details, of course, become a little more problematic. First and foremost is finding the money to pay for that expansion. Representatives of the airport’s current owner are suggesting low interest loans from the two towns the facility straddles. There may be some merit to that, as in theory the towns will benefit from increased tax revenues and possibly some interest return.

But if the main goal of increasing air traffic is to allow second-home owners, or potential second-home owners, a way to fly in for the weekend, we’re not sure that’s the best use of public money. Public funds might be better spent to bring scheduled, regional air service to an improved and expanded airport.

Perhaps a public/private partnership would be a better approach. Regional and state development agencies need to be brought into the process. Resorts, real estate agencies, and second-home developments from Whitingham to Londonderry could all benefit from an improved facility. They should invest in any expansion as well.

While an expanded airport would hopefully increase its use, and increase the number of visitors coming into the valley, that increase could potentially bring problems. Noise, traffic, and safety will all have to be addressed. While none of those potential negatives would appear to be insurmountable, they need to be discussed frankly and honestly and dealt with head-on.

Expanding the Mount Snow Airport can certainly be in the valley’s best interest. What remains to be seen is who will do it, and how.
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