The Little River [Airport] Labyrinth
By Marilyn Boese
A report on the current activities of the Little River Airport Advisory Committee cannot all be contained in this article. Suffice it say that our small, remote community has been divided by an ideological battle focused on Little River Airport. How did the airport become the center of the fight? Coast Flyers, the Fixed Base Operator at Little River, in their contract, have the right to provide jet fuel. This has been part of their business contract through three owners but never exercised. The current owners, John and Rachel Cost, requested a permit to install a tank, and also have a fuel truck available for Jet-A. Things now become complex. The Little River Airport Advisory Committee is comprised of three pilots, three non-pilot neighboring residents, and one local business owner per the requirements, outlined by the Board of Supervisors. The committee is experienced in the process of setting priorities, responding to issues that arise, protecting the airport lands and functionality, and responding to the concerns of non-flying neighbors, per their charter from the County of Mendocino. LRAAC has been ably led by Chairman Tim Scully, a pilot member, for years. The community has many rural retired, and environmentally sensitive residents. There are residents in the area with an uncompromising wish to shutter Little River Airport, as they consider it a blight on the land and a gross polluter of their soundscape and landscape, and that flights from Little River Airport constitute an invasion of their privacy. They moved to the airport area for rural, non-mechanized serenity, with the exception of that which is produced by their own machines. The benefits of jet fuel availability are lost on the ears of residents who believe they are deafened by the sound of aircraft engines.
During the application process public notices were distributed, meetings held, and members of the public came to the meetings LRAAC Chairman Tim Scully was challenged to maintain order, and personally rebuked on occasion for having an agenda that was pro-airport development. One citizen demanded that Scully be removed from the LRAAC because he is one of the pilot members, but does not have a current medical. This same citizen has demanded that the airport neighbors be allowed to interview potential non-pilot committee members to verify that the applicants have no relationship to any pilot or aircraft owner using the airport. Supporters of Tim Scully, LRAAC, and the airport have responded, but the community is hurt by this lack of trust and blatant attempt to stack the Committee in what has been a transparent public process led with skill and patience by Scully. The sentiment of local environmentalists is that there must be full public access and local control, of the committee, and the airport. The fact that the airport functions at all appears to be a problem. They have no use for an airport. Willing to drive their autos and trucks along our winding coastal mountain roads, they tolerate this form of transportation ? ground hugging ? and apparently accept its noise, pollution, and resource depletion, but not that of air transportation from Little River Airport.
|Emotions are running high here. Statistics compiled by the County showing that air traffic at Little River is down 30% in the past five years are rejected as false. Observations that there are fewer cars in the parking lot, and fewer aircraft in the tie down area are also rejected as false. Neighbor after neighbor has stood up to say the increased traffic and noise they are currently suffering is already too painful, and jet traffic unconscionable.They are sharing their pain, neighbor to neighbor, in this most public forum.|
Pilot after pilot has stood up to say that we need the airport, that it is not an exclusive enclave of wealthy jet-setters, and that it is useful to everyone in the community. Many pilots, and many neighbors, have stood up to say that they are in favor of providing jet fuel at Little River to service newer, quieter aircraft. Any emergency service providers would use it if they had need, although none intend to fuel from Little River on a regular basis.
The issues have been painstakingly developed into a list of Pros and Cons by the LRAAC. There is an urgent need for compromise and an end to hostile outbursts between neighbors. A lot of fear and anger is expressed by the anti-airport citizens. There is a fundamental disconnect between what they see as a horrific outcome and what we as aviation supporters see as a highly positive change. At this moment in time, we are lost in the labyrinth. I end my report on this note. What have you done for your airport today?
If any readers are interested in receiving information on Little River Airport issues or sending letters to the LRAAC, they can be sent to Tim Scully, 32191 Albion Ridge Rd, Albion, CA 95410. Mendocino County Supervisor?s Public Resource Committee will meet to discuss the application in early September.
Letters can be addressed to:
Supervisor Kendall Smith
Board of Supervisors
501 Low Gap Rd Room 1090
Ukiah CA 95482
For those of you who think this isn?t close to home, I offer the immortal and often paraphrased words from Walt Kelly?s ?Pogo? to ponder:
?There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, ?. we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.?
And not so easily recognized but to the point:The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie?deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
John F. Kennedy
To view the voluntary noise procedures at Airport click here.