Security enhancements are coming to the Cottage Grove State Airport as $120,000 in Airport Improvement Grants have been announced through Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office.
“It’s imperative that we continue to invest in Oregon’s rural airports in order to keep local economies moving,” DeFazio announced in a press release July 2. “I will continue to push for funds like these to keep air travel in our communities safe and efficient.”
The funds will go toward the installation of fencing on the airport’s western perimeter, a length of land with no discernable division between properties stretching from Taylor’s Towing & Auto Wrecking to the Middlefield Golf Course.
Fencing along the perimeter has been part of the airport’s master plan since 2017 and the announcement of the grant may indicate a decision to finally move forward.
“It’s [the Federal Aviation Administration’s] 2024 project,” said Shawn Kelley, aero-volunteer for the Oregon Department of Aviation at the Cottage Grove State Airport. “They want to get all the airports and make a new way of navigating across the United States by 2024.”
A timeline on installation could not be confirmed as of press time.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be going in this or next year,” Kelley said.
The safety update will provide protection for the facility that has noticeably been lacking. Currently, nothing exists to separate residential housing boundaries from the airport along the airport’s western side. The ease of access allowed for a significant amount of unwanted foot traffic.
A cul-de-sac on Lloyd Ave., for instance, has served as a popular entry point.
“They can walk from that cul-de-sac straight into the airport,” Kelley said.
Trespassing and theft issues have arisen from the lack of a fence.
“We’ve had a lot of problems with campers,” said Kelley. “Last year we had three camps that … the city police department had to get contractors to come and clean it up.”
Kelley still makes regular patrols along the airport’s perimeter to check for signs of camping, drug use or theft of various equipment.
It’s hoped that the security improvement will be enough to prevent similar problems in the future and maintain the integrity of the airport.
“And also for the community around us,” Kelley said. “We’re trying to help everybody.”
Besides safety issues, securing funding for the airport has been instrumental in increasing its role in the community.
“As Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’ve pushed for increased investment in Oregon’s rural airports,” said DeFazio in a statement to The Sentinel. “Not only will these investments help keep passengers and airport workers safe, they will help to keep rural airports and supporting facilities in good working order to maintain access to air service, which will lead to increased economic development for the region.”
Since the airport’s welcome center opened in 2017, traffic at the airport has markedly increased. Fuel sales have increased by at least 21 percent and the airport seems on track to see that number rise.
In addition to a comfy welcome center, visitors are given access to bicycles and a courtesy car to explore to the town.
“I’d say about 80 percent of the people who land here go into town,” Kelley said.
With the increased attention, hopes are that aviation tourism will become a consistent revenue stream for Cottage Grove.
“I’m glad that our airport has had a lot of improvements,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Travis Palmer. “It’s getting busier because people enjoy the facilities and what Cottage Grove has to offer once they’re here.”