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Our view: Expand airport, accept regional responsibility

Few people would consider residing in the urban area known as Crescent City to be “living in the big city.” It’s more than a point of civic pride, however, that this is the biggest population center hereabouts.

Looking for someplace bigger? To the south, it’s Eureka. To the east, actually northeast, it’s Grants Pass. To the north, it’s Coos Bay. To the west? Somewhere in Japan.

That’s important to remember. Even when a community’s population is small, it can still be a regional hub supplying services not just to its own residents but those in surrounding areas. This is why little Crescent City is blessed with amenities such as a full-service hospital and an airport offering passenger service that, with a connection in San Francisco, can get you almost anywhere airliners fly.

When the price is reasonable, flying out of Crescent City offers huge advantages for regional residents, including a short drive to the airport, free parking, and world-class coastal scenery shortly after takeoff and before landing. The cramped conditions inside the tiny terminal, however, feel more like a bus stop.

Regional leaders are moving ahead with plans for a new airport terminal to replace the rabbit warren that constitutes the existing one.

The proposed new terminal will be much bigger, providing adequate space for eventual growth in airline service. After all, passengers used to be able to fly in more directions than just south from Del Norte County Airport, and hopefully they will again someday. In addition, the new facility would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project would destroy some wetlands, and the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Board recently adopted state and federal documents indicating that environmental concerns were being adequately addressed.

Some opposition to the terminal project goes beyond concerns about wetlands. Eileen Cooper, a representative of Friends of Del Norte, contends the proposed terminal is too large for the number of people passing through the airport each day. She suggested busing people from Crescent City to the Arcata airport.

That, frankly, is a bad idea on several fronts. Surrendering what airline service we do have and abandoning hopes for its expansion are only attractive options if you’re pushing for a no-growth future. We’re in the enviable position of living in an area of incredible beauty that is remotely located, giving us time to plan for balanced, responsible growth that preserves our natural amenities. That doesn’t mean we should turn our back on economic opportunities that can make Del Norte County a better place to live and work.

From Crescent City, it’s about an 80-minute drive to the Arcata airport, and two hours-plus to Medford. People who choose those options — and sometime cheaper airfares do make alternative departure cities hard to resist — are more likely to drive their own vehicles than to catch a shuttle here.

The busing suggestion is essentially a call for an end to local airliner service. And that’s not just self-destructive economically. It also ignores the fact that Crescent City is a regional hub. Those drives to Arcata and Medford are even longer for residents of Smith River or Brookings.

Living in or near a hub, even a small one such as ours, means we should maintain and nurture amenities such as our regional hospital and airport. They enhance our quality of life, unless we’re just looking to stick our heads in the pristine sand.

 

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