City Council nixes private campground for pilots at Steamboat Springs Airport
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A private fly-in campground for pilots will not be cleared for takeoff at Steamboat Springs Airport.
The city started ordering supplies last month for five camping sites with fire pits just south of the runway to try to attract outdoorsy pilots.
But the project was grounded after a resident pointed out that it would be illegal for anyone to actually camp at the airport under the city’s current rules, which prohibit campfires and camping on all city-owned property.
On Tuesday night, the City Council declined to grant the airport an exemption from those rules. Council President Walter Magill said he would rather see the pilots paying an accommodations tax to the city at local hotels instead of camping for free next to the runway.
And Councilwoman Lisel Petis said granting an exemption for a private campground just for pilots and their passengers at the airport wouldn’t be fair to Steamboat residents who don’t own planes.
“I don’t think it would be fair to make an exemption for one class of people,” Petis said.
Councilwoman Robin Crossan expressed support for a trial of the campground, but the majority of the council declined to entertain a change to city codes. City officials had already started taking some small steps to make the campground a reality before the project hit the legal turbulence.
Airport Manager Stacie Fain said the city paid $165 for two wagons that pilots would have used to carry their camping gear from the tarmac to the free campsites.
Fain saw the campground idea as a potential revenue generator for the municipal airport.
“I think it’s important because it will draw some of the smaller planes back to the airport that haven’t been coming in,” Fain said.
She said pilots who would camp at the airport would pay tie-down fees and purchase fuel. The overall cost to construct the campsites would have been minimal, Fain said, with some materials being donated.
Before the council weighed in on the camping proposal, the city received a note of opposition from Steamboat resident Del Lockhart.
“I guess I’m missing something — why should taxpayers pay for a campground that they can’t use, that’s illegal (unless their own rules don’t apply to the city) for people who obviously have the spare change for a motel or a campsite elsewhere — if they love the outdoors that much,” Lockhart wrote in an email to Steamboat Today that he later forwarded to the City Council.
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