Steamboat Springs City Council approves airport master plan

A pilot crew takes a break from their work under a type-3 helicopter parked at the Steamboat Springs Airport.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The seven members of the Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously to approve the Steamboat Springs Airport Master Plan on Tuesday.

Because the Steamboat airport is small and does not serve commercial airlines, the city only completes a master plan every 10 to 15 years, but airport officials said it is still an integral part of the city.

“The master plan update helps us develop the airport so that it meets the requirements and demand for what happens in the future,” said Stacie Fain, airport manager. “It’s very important that the community be aware of what’s going on in their airport.”

Steamboat’s airport currently receives 95% of its funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration, and the updated master plan proves the airport is following state and federal standards, which helps ensure the airport can continue receiving that funding.

“The master plan process puts us on the map and helps us figure out where things should go in the future,” said project manager Leah Whitfield with The Aviation Planning Group. “The FAA requires that any development we want in the future be on this plan.”

Fain said the master plan’s purpose is to provide “a comprehensive study that describes the short, medium and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand.” Because of this, the plan is focused more on the aviation aspects of the airport, rather than the management and facilities aspects.

Whitfield and Fain told City Council they focused the plan on three key areas: compliance, safety and capacity, which they said are the most important components of operating a municipal airport.

The plan also outlines six subcategories for the airport’s future — safety, efficiency, environmental awareness, fiscal sustainability, land management and communication.

Each category lists several goals:

Safety: Maintain a safe and secure operating environment; provide safe facilities for aircraft, vehicles and pedestrians; comply with FAA design standards when practicable; enhance security for tenants, users and the public; and maintain safe aircraft operating surfaces.

Efficiency: Maintain or enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the airport’s operations; maintain and enhance the capacity of the existing runway and services offered; accommodate forecast growth as practicable and develop facilities that improve the efficiency; and reduce costs of airport maintenance.

Environmental awareness: Operate and develop the airport in a way that minimizes negative environmental impacts; consider the noise sensitivity of nearby neighborhoods; and minimize noise impacts and consider recommendations of other local plans.

Fiscal sustainability: Enhance the longer-term fiscal sustainability of the airport; consider the airport’s role as an economic asset and enhance its ability to promote economic growth; and enhance the airport’s ability to generate additional revenues to become more self-sufficient.

Land management: Facilitate the airport’s longer-term development through strategic land management planning; promote the highest use of the airport property to best serve aviation; provide flexibility for future development; and maximize use of existing facilities at the airport, where appropriate.

Communication: Engage stakeholders through open communication; encourage participation from all stakeholders; and ensure the airport’s positive impacts on the community are communicated.

The plan was approved after city staff sought months of public comment, which Fain said was vital to the plan’s approval.

“We want public input, and we want the public to be aware of what’s going on at their airport,” Fain said.

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