What to do with the smaller grass runway 09-27 in need of repair at the Muskoka Airport has been a contentious issue—with some of the smaller recreational aircraft pilots adamantly opposing its closure, citing safety concerns, and putting into question the board as well as airport staff for recommending that the runway be closed.
The issue, coupled with the vision of commercially developing the airport lands to generate more income and employment, as stated in the revised Muskoka Airport Master Plan passed by District council on Jan 29, 2021, has been a contentious one.
Up until 2020, the airport had two runways—its main runway 18-36 for larger aircraft which spans about 6,000 feet, and the smaller grass runway 09-27 which spans about 2,200 feet. The latter has been the topic of much debate and was ‘temporarily’ closed in 2000 pending approval from the federal aviation agency to continue operating despite it not being in compliance with federal aviation and safety standards.
The request was denied and whether to build a new grass runway or rehabilitate 09-27, which some pilots have argued is situated in the best location due to prevailing winds in case they’re unable to land on runway 18-36, has been an ongoing debate. The fact that, according to staff, Transport Canada does not require the airport to have an alternate crosswind runway like 09-27, has further exacerbated the issue with some councillors arguing that catering to a small group of users seemed to be hijacking the airport’s future prosperity and the potential for job creation, particularly as some of the airport lands are undevelopable due to environmental constraints.
Council has also heard that runway 18-36 accounts for more than 98 per cent of aircraft movements.
“I can say as the CEO for the airport, I’ve been here for three years dealing with this,” Len O’Connor told District councillors at their March 21 meeting. “We’re just hoping that council can actually make a decision on this today. It’s been going on not just for the last three years but for many years prior to my arrival in Muskoka and we would like to move forward with our plan, with the Airport Master Plan that’s been approved by council to grow and develop this airport in Muskoka.”
With the help of information provided by consultants Tetra Tech, the board, and District staff, in a recorded vote, council finally arrived at a majority consensus and agreed to close runway 09-27 and replace it with a new grass runway, 12-30, at an estimated cost of one million dollars (to be funded from the airport’s capital reserve) and focus on commercial land development in the southeast and southwest areas of the airport.
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