/On the airport

On the airport

By Chad Ingram   The history of the Stanhope Airport is long and complicated and the question of what to do, or not do, with the property has been an ongoing one for a series of municipal councils.   During a meeting last week, Councillor Jennifer Dailloux made a pitch to her colleagues that Algonquin Highlands township sell or close the airport.
She noted she was talking about the airport proper, and considers what the township might do with the section of the property designated for development of a business park as a separate, strategic decision.
“I would like to suggest that we consider all of the possible futures for the airport, including selling it, giving it to MNRF, closing it, whatever it might be, but not keeping it as a liability for our taxpayers,” Dailloux said.
Dailloux noted that the airport runs at an annual deficit of approximately $100,000 and that, unlike recreational facilities, for example, it serves only a small number of people – namely, those who own airplanes – as opposed to the wider, general public.   These things are true, and are good points.
There was not much uptake from Dailloux’s colleagues, but for good reason.   Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen talked about how there are hopes the airport may one day become a more widely used community hub, a facility not just solely for aviators. It is certainly a unique asset in the county. Danielsen noted, importantly, that outside the airport, Algonquin Highlands is fairly devoid of any space suitable for considerable commercial development. Algonquin Highlands has half of the downtown of the hamlet of Dorset within its borders. Outside of that, with Carnarvon located in the Township of Minden Hills, the municipality really has no urban area; no town, no obvious place for the congregated development of commercial activity. The airport is basically it.   That said, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic recession, likely to stretch on for years, it’s unlikely many will be lining up to start businesses in Stanhope in the near future. Mayor Carol Moffatt has said a number of times she believes people are trying to save businesses, not start new ones, amid the backdrop of the pandemic.
Moffatt has also noted that the community is changing – that is, more people are moving here to live on a year-round basis.   And that’s the conundrum of the Stanhope Airport. Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the airport is that its true value lies not in its current use, but in its future potential, in the ways that it might serve the community in 50 or 100 years from now.