Big Bear Airport – Increasing Safety Margins

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Airport board message given loud and clear
The Big Bear (CA) Grizzly

If the Big Bear Airport District buys Bear City Park with Federal Aviation Administration grant money, the Big Bear Valley Historical Society museum will have to move, according to airport manager Garry Dokter. His uncompromising statements were met with silence at the Airport District board meeting March 13. Dokter’s comments came in response to Tim Sweet’s plea to the airport board to buy the park. Sweet, speaking on behalf of the Big Bear Valley Historical Society, was surprised by Dokter’s comment. “This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Sweet said about the move.

The Bear City Park is made up of four parcels. Three of the four parcels are within the runway protection zone. The Historical Society museum is in the fourth parcel, outside the runway protection zone. However, the FAA has tightened its grip on land purchased with grant funds. The FAA will only allow airport compatible uses in runway protection zones, Dokter said. That limits the property to agricultural uses. Not even airport parking or storage are allowed in the area, he said.

Airport director Russ Lowery said the district has three options. It can do nothing and allow the park district to surplus the property. The second option is to buy three of the four parcels and leave the fourth parcel to be surplused. The third option is to buy the entire park and have the museum move.

Dokter said buying three of the four parcels makes no sense. The museum sits outside of the runway protection zone, but it does come into play for pilots departing the airport to the east, he said. Pilots make a 10-degree left turn after takeoff for noise abatement. The turn takes pilots over the museum and Baldwin Lake to less populated areas of the Valley.

Dokter said allowing the museum to stay is too much of a risk for the airport district. If the airport doesn’t take the opportunity to buy the entire park and a crash occurs involving the museum, the airport would be liable, Dokter said.

Sweet’s argument flipped sides after hearing Dokter. Sweet said if buying the airport meant the museum must move, then the airport shouldn’t buy it.

The airport was approached by the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District Feb. 7 about purchasing Bear City Park. The park was abandoned shortly after a 1984 plane crash in the park. The airport district was asked in 1992 to purchase the park. The district applied and was awarded an FAA grant for the purchase at that time. However public sentiment was not in favor of the airport district buying the property, Dokter said. Times have changed.

At a public hearing held by the airport, Big Bear residents and public officials alike spoke in favor of the purchase. Money from the purchase would fund the park district’s acquisition of land for a new park in Big Bear City. During early discussions by the airport board it was suggested that some money from the grant could be used to help the museum move. Dokter said after talking with FAA officials none of the money could go to moving the museum.

Dokter said the Historical Society should look to the plight of the Friends of Moonridge Zoo for inspiration. When the zoo was told it had to move, the Friends of Moonridge Zoo jumped into action and raised money to move the animals. Dokter said the Historical Society should be realistic and look for a new location for the museum.

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