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AOPA joins Colorado pilots in opposing efforts to close, repurpose Boulder airport

Circulation of a petition in favor of closing and repurposing the important Boulder Municipal Airport is at odds with FAA obligations. AOPA and Colorado pilots are vigorously pushing back on the politically fueled call to repurpose the airport.

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The Boulder City Council has been contemplating the future of the airport for the last few years. After meeting with residents, conducting online surveys, and receiving feedback from a working group, four potential development scenarios were revealed for community consideration. Published results from the Boulder Municipal Airport Community Conversations are in favor of retaining the land for airport use.

“Overall, community feedback indicates that the community desires to keep the airport and improve conditions in the near-term, while creating avenues for better coordination and compliance with the community’s desire for less noise and pollution from airport operations,” the report states.

AOPA strongly supports the development scenario that would implement the most recent Airport Master Plan and foster aviation development at the airport through modernization of general aviation and hangar improvements. Boulder Municipal Airport is a vital part of the state and regional aviation system, as it’s responsible for nearly 300 jobs, conducts over 50,000 annual operations, and serves as a vital emergency response staging area during natural disasters.

Unfortunately, a group of Boulder residents is circulating a petition in favor of an alternative development scenario that would decommission the airport and repurpose the land to create a “new, visionary neighborhood” that would include housing, employment hubs, and green space. Not only would this eliminate a community asset that has been operational since the 1920s, but pursuing this scenario would also violate legal obligations that the city has to the FAA.

AOPA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager Brad Schuster asks, "Are homeowners who make the choice to move close to busy freeways or railways then allowed to petition federal, state, and local governments to close freeways or railways just because they discover they are inconvenienced? I think the answer is obvious, so why should it be acceptable for airports which are similarly a part of the national transportation system to be treated any differently?"

The Boulder Airport Association has launched a petition to save the airport, with resources, supporter comments, and information for those who wish to know the benefits the airport brings to the community.

Carl Lawrence, president of the Boulder Airport Association, said, “Closing the airport would not just put [our] community at risk, it would come at a massive cost because the City would have to compensate the FAA for the land that the City of Boulder purchased with FAA funds. The costs for the City and its taxpayers are likely to far exceed [one] hundred million dollars. That’s before even one new home could be built on the site.”

Regardless of the results of the community petition to close the airport, the city has accepted more than $12.7 million in airport improvement funds through the FAA, which come with grant assurances that legally obligate the city to keep the airport open and available to the public. Unless given consent by the FAA and formally released from the terms of these obligations, the airport cannot close.

The Boulder City Council was expected to make a decision on the future of the airport early this year; however, in January the decision was delayed to the summer. Meanwhile, pilots and businesses on the field face uncertainty. Due in part to the vocal and misguided minority in favor of decommissioning the airport, the city has seemed unwilling to support development of the airport, and is only offering month-to-month leases for tenants on the field for an indefinite period until more information is released, leaving all current and future airport businesses, users, and prospective developers of airport hangars and other desperately needed infrastructure in limbo.

While all await a decision on the scenario chosen, AOPA remains committed to ensuring the airport is accessible to the public and that any actions regarding the airport are legal, moral, ethical, and in adherence with grant assurances.

Lillian Geil

Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, Airport

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