GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Haven Memorial Airport has been on Comstock Street near 168th Avenue since the 1940s. Since then, it has lost about half of its acreage and could now lose more.
The Chamber of Commerce for Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg proposed getting rid of about 40 acres of the airport and closing its north-south runway. The chamber wants to rezone the area for commercial properties like factories, estimating that doing so could bring in $600 million.
“I don’t see anything to be gained by actually doing this,” airport manager Earle Bares said when asked about the potential project. “We would not like to see it closed. It is routinely used, especially by students.”
Some of those students can be found next to the runway at Skydive Grand Haven.
“We definitely use it,” said Tony Gwinn with Skydive Grand Haven. “We take off into the wind and we try to stay within power-off gliding distance from the airport in case we lose the engine.”
Gwinn explained that because it’s ideal to land in the same direction as the wind, many new pilots depend on having both east-west and north-south runways. If they don’t, they may be forced to deal with strong crosswinds.
“If somebody tried to use it and they weren’t ready to handle the crosswinds, they may end up sliding off the runway,” Gwinn added.
In addition to safety concerns, airport staff say money is at stake. They say in the last four years, they’ve gone from 4,000 operations to 12,000. They have also significantly increased fuel sales. They say losing the runway would impact all of these things.
“One of the things we say in aviation is ‘minimize risk.’ The north-south runway is an important part of that,” Bares said.
The city says the proposal is still only an idea and that there is still lots of research to be done. It says any changes would need to be approved at the federal and state levels.