Safe flying this season: A blog post about our airport
Updated: Feb 17
As many people fly this holiday season, the Durango-La Plata County Airport (airport) is a perfect topic for my next blog. A safe, growing airport is absolutely crucial to the economic and social health of our county. Recently, I had the privilege of learning more.
The Durango-La Plata County Airport spans 1,400 acres. In 2016, voters turned down a property tax increase for airport improvements, including relocation of the terminal. I do not believe that vote means our airport isn’t supported. The majority didn’t agree with either the plan to move the terminal or the funding tool (i.e., property taxes). Since then, I think the Airport Advisory Commission and staff have done an exceptional job of making measured improvements. And, they are currently in a detailed planning process for the future including a plan for terminal upgrades. We’ll be hearing a lot in '20 and beyond.
A few facts....
** Our airport is the 5th busiest in Colorado. The airport passenger numbers for those flying in/out are at almost 400,000/year, a number that is rising.
**There is a very long list of things that go into running an airport including: safety, compliance, overseeing the fixed based operator and other tenants, mechanics, maintenance, janitorial, wildlife management, water/sewer treatment, administration, and more. Concessions, ticketing, rental cars and TSA are not services provided by airport staff but rather by the airlines or other entities.
** This facility is not connected to central water. This, I didn’t know! The airport obtains water out of the Florida River, and treats it. This is a very challenging situation in droughts.
** The economic impact of the airport is notable at 280 million/year. This includes those 23 people directly employed by the airport itself, those who work in businesses on site (i.e., concessions, gift shop, rental car agencies, cargo carriers, etc.), and then there are enterprises throughout the county linked directly to air service.
** We all benefit from one tenant especially and that is the USFS which has fleet of fire-fighting aircraft located on-site, known as the "Durango Airtanker Base."
** The airport is jointly owned and governed by the City of Durango and La Plata County and, employees are City employees. A nine-member advisory commission oversees the airport. County Commissioners appoint three of these members and 1 Commissioner serves.
** A fixed base operator runs the facility for private planes. They play a vital role in our area and are used by many businesses.
The common complaint I hear about air service is ticket prices, set by market conditions, not the Airport Advisory Commission. If we can get our terminal upgraded, this will hopefully attract another airline(s) and in turn, bring prices down. Lowering ticket prices should be a priority for everyone.
Even if one doesn’t fly much either for work or pleasure, we each benefit from the airport. Speaking personally here, I recently needed to fly to Denver several times for a family medical emergency and was I ever glad the airport was there.
Please let me know what you think!
Marsha for Commissioner
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