de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver float plane. Image Credit: A Wikimedia Commons

de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver float plane. Image Credit: A Wikimedia Commons

Non-profit concerned about future of Courtenay Airpark

Group feels idea for third bridge ‘ill-conceived’

A bridge at 21st Street would destroy the Airpark and make the Courtenay River inaccessible to float planes, says the Courtenay Airpark Association.

But at this point in the ‘Connecting Courtenay’ discussion, any ideas for a third crossing are merely speculation.

In a Tuesday presentation to council, Dave Mellin said the non-profit association returns $45,000-$50,000 annually to the City.

“But this is a minor amount in comparison to the economic and lifestyle benefits to the people and the community of Courtenay and the Comox Valley,” he said.

“Monies generated by the association are reinvested in improvement to the airpark. If the Airpark is lost, what’s next? Lewis Park? Bill Moore Park? Simms Park?”

Their concerns stem from a draft Transportation Master Plan that provides direction on transportation infrastructure for the next 20 years.

Based on community input and technical analysis in recent months, various themes have emerged for each transportation mode.

One mode is a Courtenay River crossing south of the 17th Street Bridge, which has the most potential to divert traffic from congested areas and to accommodate growth, the plan states.

The association feels a crossing at 21st Street is “ill-conceived and should be eliminated from any transportation plan.”

“I don’t believe this council has any interest in a bridge at that location,” Coun. Doug Hillian said.

Coun. David Frisch notes the idea is merely an arrow on a map.

“People are drawing everything onto one arrow on a map,” Mayor Larry Jangula said. “There has been much misinformation and assumptions spread in the public. Any comments on land-use decisions, particularly at the Courtenay Airpark, would be speculation.”

The association says the Airpark is a $4-$5 million asset that has created 30 direct, and 80-90 indirect jobs. Among other things, it provides an alternate landing pad when weather conditions impede landings at the hospital.

“Our location is unique in the float plane industry,” said Mellin, who is concerned about short-term leasing at the park.

Jangula said the City is working towards aligning leases to increase operational efficiency.

“Where you’re getting short-term leases is to get them to line up so they all expire at the same. No one is on a month-to-month basis,” Jangula said.

But Mellin says business owners have been told their leases will go month-to-month when they expire.

The association would like to see a 25-year lease with a five-year renewal.

“One of the businesses was in the process of doubling his staff, and now that’s on hold,” Mellin said. “You can’t operate a business in a vacuum.”

Jangula said he needs to discuss the matter further with City staff.

The purpose of the draft plan is to inform future discussions and provide guidance to council as part of the budget process.

It will be presented to council later this year. Council can choose to accept or mend the plan, or any of its recommendations.

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