Walker Field is no more
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION – Some called the decision a step toward a booming future.
Others called it the end of an era.
Either way, the Walker Field Airport Authority voted Tuesday evening to switch the name of Walker Field airport to Grand Junction Regional Airport and to change its name to the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority.
Airport Authority member John Stevens said the name change would help make the airport more recognizable and help lead the newly dubbed hub to the top of the Western Slope airport heap.
“The ability to take it to the next level starts with this name change,” Stevens said.
“Guys, the time is now and we need to move forward,” added airport authority member Denny Granum.
Moving forward doesn’t have to mean giving up the past, said Grand Junction Mayor Jim Doody, who attended the meeting.
“The timing sucks, with our 125th anniversary,” Doody said after the decision was made.
Before the authority voted 6-0 to make the change, Doody asked the airport authority to delay the vote and make a presentation to the Grand Junction City Council. Doody said the majority of the council members were unable to attend the authority’s public meeting on the name change May 7 because they were attending a farewell party for former Councilman Jim Spehar. The one exception was councilman and airport authority member Gregg Palmer, who left the party early to attend the meeting.
Palmer was absent at Tuesday’s vote due to double knee surgery that afternoon.
Doody said he expected the vote to turn out as it did. But he would have preferred more public discussion and input before airport chucked its 65-year-old name.
“I’m more into being transparent,” Doody said. “The decision’s theirs, that’s fine, but I prefer to do things a different way.”
Airport Authority member Doug Simons said the airport authority doesn’t answer to the Mesa County Board of Commissioners or the Grand Junction City Council, and it’s time for the airport authority to “be responsible” during its $19 million facelift, which includes a parking lot expansion.
The project includes $70,000 for new signs bearing the airport’s new name. That would be $70,000 down the tube if the authority decided to change the airport’s name a few years from now, Simons said.
Simons, a pilot, said pilots rarely refer to the airport as Walker Field.
“This is Grand Junction Airport in my mind and I think it’s time to reflect that,” said Simons.
Seven audience members spoke at the meeting – four in favor of the change and three opposed to it.
Opponents said the name change would only annoy passengers and take away from Grand Junction’s history. Those in favor of the change said re-branding is a common practice to stay current. There was also mention that Walter Walker might not be the best person to name an airport after, considering his alleged ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
Walker’s name will remain on airport property in the form of a fire building, the airport terminal and a boulevard leading to the airport – all of which will bear his name.
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