Glenwood Springs airspace study identifies hundreds of flight-path obstructions
City to host airport listening session regarding facility’s future
Hundreds of trees near the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport could require trimming or removal to facilitate aircraft safety, according to a recent airspace study.
Completed by a subcontractor of Jacob’s Engineering, the design firm working on the South Bridge project, the airspace study was initiated in July to determine the feasibility of moving the airport’s runway north as an alternative to shortening the runway or tunneling beneath it as part of the South Bridge project.
The study was the first of its kind conducted at Glenwood’s airport, City Engineer Terri Partch said.
Analyzing eight flight paths for landing and taking off, the study looked at an area about 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide centered on the existing runway.
Completed in October, the findings revealed more than 480 obstructions — primarily trees — penetrating the aviation surface for runway 14, which runs north to south. On runway 32, which runs south to north, the study identified more than 350 obstructions.
“Some of the obstructions are buildings, mostly the city’s,” Public Information Officer Bryana Starbuck said. “But, our team believes those could be mitigated with lighting options.”
The findings are slated to play a key role in an airport listening session scheduled from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Feb. 24, at Sopris Elementary School.
“We have layouts of every single parcel with an obstruction,” Partch said. “So, we’ll be able to answer some of the basic questions and inform people if their property will be affected.”
Starbuck said the city is in the beginning stages of formulating an obstruction mitigation plan, however, resident feedback is necessary to move forward as well as a final direction on the airport’s future.
“The study only analyzed obstructions in the event of moving the runway north,” Starbuck said. “But we estimate that if the runway stays where it is, there will be even more obstructions.”
During the listening session, the city is planning on presenting five options for the airport in relation to the South Bridge Project, which connects south Midland Avenue to Colorado Highway 82.
The options include moving the runway north, leaving the runway where it is and building a tunnel underneath, shortening the runway, eliminating the runway and expanding aviation at the airport. All options include maintaining a helicopter pad on the property.
Airport Manager Meredith Fox said some obstructions could require mitigation in every scenario, including eliminating the runway.
If an option other than moving the runway north were selected, the potential obstructions would need to be re-evaluated, but the city could do so using the initial study findings, Partch said.
If obstructions are not removed from the airport’s flight paths, Starbuck said the safety hazard could impact the city’s ability to secure grants for the airport maintenance and improvement.
“We had no idea we would discover this safety concern when we set out to do the study,” Partch said. “But now that we know a safety hazard exists, the city has an obligation to ensure the airport can be used in a safe manner.”
Fox said the city will likely begin mitigating obstructions on city property, including a large concentration in Sullivan Park.
“We are at the beginning of this project, and there are a lot of variables in the air,” Starbuck said. “We plan to work closely with the community to develop a plan to mitigate or remove flight path obstructions, and the first step is listening to what our residents have to say at Thursday’s listening session. If people have input on this, that’s the best place to start.”
An open letter from the city to affected residents can be read at COGS.us.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.