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Granite Shoals Airport Advisory Committee shares future plans

Granite Shoals airport

The north end of the Granite Shoals/Bob Sylvester Airpark is open to the public. Airport Advisory Committee President Steve Zbranek gave a presentation on the airport's status and future goals to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Plans for the Granite Shoals/Bob Sylvester Airpark were defined and shared publicly by the Airport Advisory Committee during the regular meeting of the Granite Shoals Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 20. This update comes after months of questions from residents about the cost of the airport and its future development.

“We just want to make this an asset,” said advisory committee President Steve Zbranek.

The Granite Shoals airport was built in 1972 but wasn’t designated as a public airport until 2019.

Zbranek led the discussion and fielded questions from both residents and the commission.

Among the stated short-term goals of the Airport Advisory Committee are:

  • installation of a helipad for medical helicopter evacuations 
  • drafting an ordinance to make the airport day-use only
  • restricting touch-and-go landings to reduce noise
  • installing two park-quality picnic tables for public use
  • holding a 2022 meet-the-pilots event 
  • establishing five tie-downs to accommodate visiting pilots
  • installing security cameras to record activity and act as a flight log
  • supporting a 2022 Bike Rodeo at Quarry Park
  • hosting a 2023 Young Eagles event

The airport is currently allocated a budget $10,000 a year, which is 0.1 percent of Granite Shoals’ $10 million budget for fiscal year 2022-23. In comparison, the Streets Department has a $691,873 budget and the Parks Department received $493,330.

The committee has no plans to request an increase in the airport’s budget, Zbranek said, and is committed to matching city funds for the upcoming projects. It is also committed to completely funding the installation of the proposed helipad.

Granite Shoals Airport Advisory Committee President Steve Zbranek
Granite Shoals resident Melissa Rubin posed questions to Airport Advisory Committee President Steve Zbranek during a Granite Shoals Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20. Residents have expressed concerns for months over the potential costs and expansion of the airport, prompting Zbranek to publicly establish the status and goals set by the committee for the airport. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

“When I asked the City Council to preserve that (budget) for us, I stood here and told them that, coming this next year, if I used any of that, I would provide matching funds,” Zbranek said.

According to Zbranek and Interim City Manager Peggy Smith, the airport’s budget has not been used for improvements in three years. The cost of mowing has been the only expense. The money does not build up each year if not spent but goes back into the bigger city budget.

Zbranek cited the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of public access to the airport, and an insufficient number of committee members as reasons for low activity in recent years.

After a meeting with former Police Chief Gary Boshears in 2021, the Airport Advisory Committee determined the Granite Shoals Animal Control Office parking lot could be used as a public access point on the north end of the airport, Zbranek said. 

And, as of Sept. 13, the committee is now full with seven members.

“I’m glad you explained what happened,” said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Anita Hisey, after recalling the committee’s enthusiasm in past years and questioning why activity had stalled.

Granite Shoals resident Melissa Rubin took the podium and asked Zbranek about potential air traffic.

Five Granite Shoals residents have planes based out of the airport, and, after proposed tie-down upgrades take place, an additional five visiting aircraft could use the airport, Zbranek said. A tie-down is a picket used to secure small unhangared aircraft against being blown over by the wind. The committee plans to charge pilots for overnight use of the tie-downs. 

At the time this story was being written, it is unknown how many planes fly in and out of the airport, but the advisory committee estimates that between zero and one use the airstrip on weekdays and between one and two on the weekends. 

Rubin then asked Zbranek what the committee’s plans were for future expansion or development of the airport.

“As long as I’m on it, as long as these guys are on it, our only goal is to make what we have a community asset,” Zbranek responded. “We’re not planning to expand it or pave it or add any more runways or any more capacity at all.”

Concerns were raised about the safety of the airport when an unidentified plane briefly landed and took off in early hours of Aug. 21. In response to this night landing, the advisory committee proposed drafting an ordinance designating the airport as day-use only, making it illegal to land at night. The Aug. 21 incident also raised concerns over the lack of a flight log and security. 

Zbranek proposed installing security cameras that would allow for identifying tail numbers on planes, serving the dual purposes of tracking airport use and capturing violations on camera.

The Airport Advisory Committee meets monthly at Granite Shoals City Hall, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road. No date had been set for the next meeting as of this story’s deadline. Visit the Granite Shoals city website to stay up to date on future meetings. 

dakota@thepicayune.com

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