Days numbered for airport’s hazardous overgrowth

  • Aug. 18, 2015 1:00 p.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverThe Village of Masset has vowed to clear the trees and bushes from the Masset Regional Airport, after it becoming evident the property was not fully grubbed and cleared originally.When the airport was initially developed the entire property was logged, but for unknown reasons it was not adequately finished. Masset Mayor Andrew Merilees believes this was due to budget concerns.  Whatever the reason, it left a large stump field on both sides of the runway where native brush and trees grow. The Village has tried to keep growth under control by a combination of manual and mechanical means. However, the trees are now growing too tall, and the density of the brush is interfering with the management of birds and deer that get on the airport property, potentially interfering with the path of aircraft. The village hopes to resolve the hazard by planting the area with low lying shrubs to keep the animals away. Removal of brush and stumps would allow these large areas to be maintained with a tractor and flail mower much more effectively than by manual means. This equipment would need to be purchased in either 2016 or 2017. The approximate cost of a new tractor is $270,000. The village queried local contractors about clearing and grubbing the area in 2014. Clearing the east and west sides of the runway by either burying, grinding or removing the stumps is estimated to exceed of $1,000,000. Burning is not an option as it would require the closure of the airport. Research done by the village into other options led to a discussion with Enviro-Mulch Land Clearing Solutions, who have specialized equipment designed for this purpose. The mayor said initial discussions were promising. The company sent a representative to Masset in May of this year for a site visit. The Village of Masset did attempt to secure funding for this work from the newly announced B.C. Air Access Program, funded by the province, but the project was not deemed eligible under the current submission guidelines. It was recommended at the regular July 27 meeting that council approve an amendment to the 2015 Financial Plan to fund the clearing of stumps and brush at the airport with funds coming from capital reserves, and that the village proceed with funding applications for a tractor and mower for future airport property maintenance.  Council voted in favour of amending the 2015 financial plan to pay for the project and hire Enviro-Mulch Land Clearing Solutions to do the initial clearing scheduled to start later this year.

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