With a group of supporters, donors and interested citizens gathered around, the Cottage Grove Airport Welcome Center officially opened its doors last Tuesday. The center, which cost just over $100,000 and was all funded through local donations is a small building that features a bathroom, a mini fridge with water and a couch for pilots who fly into the Cottage Grove airport and need a place where they can relax.
The project, that was spearheaded by Nadine Kelly and her husband began, as anyone who was part of the planning process will tell you, “three years and eight months ago.”
“We were at a… tourism meeting, back in January of 2014 and I just turned to my husband and said we need a bathroom [at the airport] and that’s exactly how it started. We need a bathroom and now here, three years and eight months later,” said Nadine.
While there is a bathroom and a place for pilots to relax after a flight, Nadine sees the building, that is replacing the outhouse that once stood in its place as a gateway for pilots to come and explore the city of Cottage Grove.
“Pilots fly to eat, play and stay,” said Nadine. “I’m excited for the people to come in and experience Cottage Grove. Cottage Grove has a lot to offer aviation.”
Travis Palmer, the executive director of the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, believes that getting pilots to land in town will have a significant economic impact.
“Let me run through a scenario: a pilot chooses to come to Cottage Grove. They fly in, they buy gas, there’s a gas tax, they stay at a hotel, often, because they’ll make an overnight out of it. So that’s a room tax for Cottage Grove.
“They’ll go into town and shop and go to restaurants, there’s an immediate economic impact from that, and then they go back and tell their friends. We have events that are being hosted here now because we have better facilities to welcome them. It’s just full circle,” said Palmer.
Palmer is excited about the opportunities that this will bring and about its historic nature. This is the first time in Oregon that a community has raised the entirety of the money for a building like this. Another group of people that are excited about the opportunities are those from Travel Lane County. Natalie Inouye, the Vice President of tourism marketing at the organization is excited for what is to come.
“Aviation tourism is really important to us and it is a county wide thing. But what they’ve done here is really special,” said Inouye. She noted that she thinks that this can become not just a place to enjoy a “$100 dollar lunch.” This is a common phrase in the aviation community that is when a pilot flies to a city for lunch but does not stay and so they are paying for the gas and the meal.
“That’s a nice way to introduce somebody to your community but it’s not really helping the economy in the same way as when they are flying in and staying for awhile and that’s what we want,” she said.