Increased corporate traffic by improving the length of the airport runway: this has been the end goal of a decade plus long project by the city of Camdenton. After years of small improvements to weather systems and runway approaches,the final and most pivotal step to increased economic impact and usability of one of Camdenton’s biggest local assets is finally becoming a reality.
Increased corporate traffic by improving the length of the airport runway. This has been the end goal of a decade plus long project by the city of Camdenton. After years of small improvements to weather systems and runway approaches,the final and most pivotal step to increased economic impact and usability of one of Camdenton’s biggest local assets is finally becoming a reality.
In 2007, the plan was set in place. Corey Leuwerke, owner of Camdenton’s fixed-based operator Lake Aviation Center, says the biggest hurdle was getting the idea through the state. The idea had to be pitched to MoDOT Aviation, which meant they were in a race against multiple other state airports for funds.
Leuwerke says that it’s been a struggle for the airport to showcase to the residents of Camdenton how important the airport is to economic growth.
“I get it a lot, people saying ‘Well, I don’t use the airport, why should we be putting all this money out there?’ and to me, that’s the same as someone at home who has their groceries delivered saying ‘Well I don’t use the roads, why do I have to pay taxes on them?’” Leuwerke said.
After three to four years of working with the city, county commissioners and MoDOT to do studies and more to justify the airports importance and economic impact, Leuwerke says they were able to get their foot in the door. The next step was an environmental impact study. With federal money, lots of small environmental factors had to be taken into account. Even down to something as specific as the bat populations like in neighboring trees.
Finally, before any grant money could be accepted, land acquisition had to be sorted out. Leuwerke says this was one of the longest steps of the process. Over the last few years, the airport and members of the City of Camdenton Board, including City Administrator Jeff Hancock, have been working to acquire and reimburse resident owned land in the space needed to extend the runway. Hancock says that he recalls working on 22 total properties.
Leuwerke says that, surprisingly, few owners had major issues with the movement and reimbursement process. Even so, there were a few owners not happy about the proposition, which Leuwerke says is understandable and a factor that they knew would be part of the process.
“It’s taken a long time, and Jeff has done a great job working on this,” Leuwerke said. “I think it’s been going on for just over three years now.”
Now, 12 years since the beginning of the project, Camdenton is finally in a position to accept the grant. At the Tuesday, August 6 board of aldermen meeting, the board approved the acquisition of the $5 million MoDOT aviation grant. Grading and excavating work will now start in the area to prepare for the multi-year construction of the runway.
However, with the inclusion of a longer runway, space and hangar accommodations must also be made for increased corporate presence. Currently, the airport has space for around 50 single-engine planes, though Leuwerke says that the airport is underserved with corporate plane hangars with space for only 8 or 9. He says an increase will be determined by need following the runway extension, but he hopes to double corporate space by at least double.
“I envision most of the new hangar space to be privately owned,” Leuwerke said. “They will work out a land-lease with the city and build it themselves.”
The need for extending the runway from 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet comes from landing restrictions held by most flights. Leuwerke says that 5,000 feet is a norm set by more corporations and airports across the country. This would allow for different large scale planes to land safely in Camdenton. Though he doesn’t envision commercial flights ever being available in Camdenton, he says this will be an economic lift for larger shipments and will only be a benefit to tourism and privately owned aircraft, which is one of the highest uses of the airport currently.
Much of the grading and pavement work on the extension will continue to be worked on throughout 2019 and into 2020. Leuwerke says that most safe estimates they have been given suggest the project will be completed in 2021. He says that, after over a decade at this point, they don’t feel the need to rush to the finish line.
Hancock says that getting to this point in the project provides “a high degree of personal satisfaction”. With the recent announcement of his retirement as City Administrator, he says he is proud to have been part of the difficult steps in the early stages. He says that, looking back on his career, working on improving the airport has been a highlight. He says that he believes this will be a big economic boost not only for Camdfenton, but for lake commerce as a whole.