Regional news: Fly-in campground being built by Steamboat Springs Airport
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new campground under construction in Steamboat Springs will cater to campers who don’t mind the sound of a Cessna engine firing up in the morning or the smell of jet fumes occasionally mixing with that great campfire smell.
Steamboat Springs Airport is currently working on five new campsites that will allow pilots and their passengers to set up camp and roast marshmallows just feet from the runway inside the southern fence line of Bob Adams Field.
Campers will be able to shower, get water and use bathroom facilities anytime at the nearby fixed-base operator building.
Airport Manager Stacie Fain thinks the new “fly-in” camping spots will attract pilots who are already seeking out more primitive backcountry campsites along runways in Utah, Idaho and Montana.
The modest campsites here will feature a level pad for a tent, picnic tables and fire rings. They won’t be anything fancy, Fain said.
But for pilots who often arrive in Steamboat without the vehicles they would need to get to some of the more rugged campsites, the airport campsites will offer a unique and affordable camping experience.
“I think pilots who want to do an overnighter and do a little hiking in town will be attracted to this sort of thing,” Fain said.
The next best thing
Fain said she herself has enjoyed camping under the wing of her own antique airplane in such places as Oshkosh, Wisconsin. While under-the-wing camping couldn’t be accommodated here, Fain said the campsites are the next best thing.
“This is a destination place where outdoorsy people come,” she said.
The campsites will be free for pilots and their passengers. Fain expects the camping sites will start to open sometime in June. They will not be open to the general public.
Fain said the campsites are being constructed mostly with donated materials, including wood chips from a local company and leftover millings from local roads that are reconstructed.
The purchase of some fire rings and framing material for picnic tables will come out of the airport’s existing operating budget, she said.
Fly-in camping appears to be an emerging trend in the aviation world. There’s a website that tracks which airports around the country offer “on-field” camping, and airport employees in places as isolated and remote as Monte Vista have reported seeing pilots make their own campsites in the grassy areas along their runways.
Prior to construction of the campsites, Fain consulted with an airport that already has a track record of attracting fly-in campers.
Yellowstone Airport Manager Jeff Kadlec said the campgrounds near his runway are set up in a wooded area and attract at least one or two sets of campers pretty consistently throughout the summer. Sometimes they fill up, and overflow campers will set up tents further into the trees.
The airport located in West Yellowstone, Montana, also throws in free firewood. But the biggest perk of the fly-in camping at Yellowstone might be the fences around the airport that keep area grizzly bears from wandering into the campsites.
“We don’t have to worry about hard-sided, bear-proof storage units here,” Kadlec said.
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