Representatives of the North Fork Valley Airport, which is just outside of Paonia, came to the Paonia Town Council on March 12 to update the trustees on what's happening at the airport. Private funding will add eight more hangars increasing the number of aircraft parked at the airport.
The airport brings business people and tourists to Paonia. They are attracted because of the airport's elevation, its paved and lighted 4,500-foot by 60-foot runway, 24-hour self fuel, a courtesy car, flight planning and on-site airport manager.
The airport boosts the local economy through business transportation and tourists coming to visit the many North Fork Valley orchards, wineries, concerts, festivals. In turn the visitors spend time and money at local restaurants, hotels, the theater and other locations.
Pilot Larry Garrett said the airport is good for a "$100 hamburger." The airport has an event where pilots with their family and guests fly in for breakfast or lunch. The breakfast or hamburger doesn't cost $100, but the fuel to fly there does. Pilots love to come to the North Fork Valley Airport which was evidenced by the Colorado Pilot Association's award to the airport this past year.
The Town of Paonia has had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Delta County since 2009. The town owns 75 percent of the land for the airport and the county 25 percent. The county contributes some of its sales tax revenue towards the airport. The county collects revenue from the hangars, employs the fixed based operator and handles maintenance. Capital improvements are 75 percent paid by the Town of Paonia and 25 percent by the county.
The fixed based operator is Mike Clawson who took over the operation from his father who ran it for 22 years. Clawson has made upgrades in the facility and the amenities offered. Fuel is available 24/7. There is a campsite for picnic lunches. There are courtesy bicycles and a car for those who fly in and need to get around town. Clawson purchased the bicycles and car at his own expense. There has been a 97 percent increase in fuel sales between December 2010 and December 2012.
Garrett, a commercial pilot, said he moved to Paonia specifically because of the airport. His business is Aero Tow Unlimited, Inc. He tows gliders and banners, does aerial photography and scenic flights, and gives flight instruction. He assists with fire spotting and searching for lost hunters, hikers, kayakers and bikers. He assists ranchers by searching for lost breeding bulls and cattle.
Garrett pointed out that general aviation is changing on the Western Slope.
North Fork Valley Airport is known for being well managed and friendly in its approach of helping pilots and their guests.
Currently, there are 12 hangar owners. Twenty-one aircraft are housed at the airport.
Private local funding will provide $40,000, which will cover the 10 percent match needed for a $400,000 grant to build eight new hangars to be located on a new taxiway.
The airport is asking the Town of Paonia and the Delta County Commissioners for their endorsements for the grant application. The town and county would not have any financial responsibility.
Trustee Ross King said the idea sounds great but he wants to have a written document for the council to review prior to a vote. Garrett said one will be provided.
The MOU requires both the county and the town to approve of any capital improvements.blog comments powered by Disqus