to fight airport fence plan
Group says FAA route could harm
Park Point forest
Aug. 22, 2002
A decision has been made
on just where to build a new fence around Duluth's Sky
But not so fast.
Some nearby residents and
Park Point Community Club members have hired an attorney
and plan to go to court to keep the controversial fence
from going through the heart of an old-growth forest.
They fear trees will be damaged and the public's access
to trails cut off in the forest near the end of the
But that's the route chosen
this month by officials from the Federal Aviation Administration.
They picked it over a location along the edge of the
forest that had been pitched by the Minnesota Department
of Natural Resources and that had support from some
residents and from the Duluth Airport Authority.
"They're the ones providing
the money for this project," airport authority Executive
Director Ray Klosowski said of the FAA. "It's their
call. With this decision made, we'll press ahead now
with the fence until we have some legal reason to stop."
Klosowski expects $450,000
in federal money for the fence and for other airport
improvements to arrive within several weeks. Construction
would begin soon thereafter, he said.
If the courts don't step
"It's not over. It can't
be," said Dave Johnson, a Park Point Community Club
member and one of the neighborhood's most outspoken
critics of the fence.
"I don't want to come across
as a bunny-hugger, but it galls me that my own tax money
is being used against me," Johnson said, referring to
his neighborhood's abundance of rabbits. "I agree a
fence is important, but it should go along the most
logical route. They've been ramming this thing down
our throats. And now we've been brushed aside. I think
Because the fence would
keep out the public, Johnson and other neighbors said,
they see the project as a land grab by the airport.
While planning for the future
of their neighborhood as part of the city of Duluth's
comprehensive planning process, Park Point residents
decided it was important to protect the pine forest
near Sky Harbor.
"How valuable is our planning
process if we can't accomplish one of our top priorities?"
Johnson asked. "All of our meetings have been a complete
waste of time. But we're not done yet."
Airport officials want the
6-foot, chain-link fence for safety. Bicyclists, dog-walkers
and others have been known to sometimes wander onto
airport property, oblivious to the dangers to themselves
or to pilots landing and taking off. Two plans, one
in 1976 and the other in 1999, called for the perimeter
fence at the recreational, one-runway facility.
The fence's construction
would eat up about $170,000 of the $450,000 in federal
money. Other planned work at the airport includes building
new hangars, repairing a rotating beacon, installing
new runway lights and repaving the airport's ramp area.
"There's a perception we're
going to put up this fence and then clear out all the
trees around it, just cut them all down," Klosowski
said. "We're not.
But the fence almost certainly
will damage the forest, said Bob Djupstrom, supervisor
of scientific and natural areas in the DNR's division
of ecological services in St. Paul. He met with FAA
officials Monday but was unable to alter their decision.
"We think it's a very unfortunate
decision," Djupstrom said. "I am very surprised. I find
it to be somewhat arbitrary.
"If you put a fence through
there you are going to damage the old-growth forest.
Absolutely," he said. "You'll damage root systems and
you'll no doubt do damage to trees during the construction.
And then when those trees die, that'll open up the forest
to more wind and then more wind damage and other damage."
The FAA's decision follows
policy, said Gordon Nelson, program manager for the
FAA's airport district office in Minneapolis.
"Our policy is to construct
perimeter fences along perimeters," Nelson said. "Perimeter
fences go along the perimeters of airports."
The fence route deviates
from the airport's sometimes-disputed boundary. That
happens near the terminal where it's routed to avoid
sand dunes and rare dune grasses.
"It deviates where they
want it to deviate, but not where others want it to,"