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Great Barrington airport expansion benefits only a select few

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By Tuesday, Jun 6, 2017 Letters 20

To the Editor:

The continued gathering of concerned citizens, and neighbors of the Great Barrington Airport, at the regularly scheduled meetings of the Selectboard is proof that our Democratic form of government (every person has a voice) is alive and well. To the credit of the Selectboard, all points of view have been given equal time to present their position, except for the last meeting where, curiously, only proponents of the airport were allowed to speak. We have heard the airport manager, owners and customers speak to us and they would have us believe that the airport is a vital part of the economy and a boon to the entire community.

In fact, the airport only benefits a select few who can afford to own a private airplane and enjoy flying as a hobby… a loud expensive, polluting hobby, similar to jet skis, snowmobiles or motorboats. All these recreational machines are allowed, but well regulated, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In simple terms they are adult toys, hobby machines that roar along carrying their privileged owners to the detriment of neighbors, wildlife and our natural resources.

The Great Barrington airport is not akin to a railroad station, or bus depot or even a taxi station. It does NOT benefit the general community, and in fact harms the immediate surrounding family homesteads with ever increasing “avgas” lead fuel fumes and noise pollution. On the topic of noise pollution, are there any regulations or standards for “mufflers” on airplanes as there are on automobiles? If not, why not?

The Great Barrington airport is insular, unapproachable and unaffordable by the vast majority of residents of the Berkshires. We keep hearing that it has been there for 80 years or so, but the quaint cornfield airport as it was, has gotten much busier, much louder, and is asking for more.

I do not wish for the demise of the quaint Great Barrington Airport, but what is an acceptable level of growth or expansion for this type of facility — bearing in mind it only serves a “bunch of good guys getting together to fly” (quote from the last town of Great Barrington Selectmen meeting by a part owner of the Airport.)

We don’t need giant hangars, we don’t need increased flight schedules, we don’t need more student flight time. We need our homes, our families and our environment to be protected and continue to be provided the quality of life we sought and found when we all moved to the Berkshires.

James August Weber

Pumpkin Hollow Rd.

Great Barrington, Mass.

20 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Patrick Fennell says:

    Actually we all benefit from an expanded airport, restaurants, stores, other businesses, rental companies, the arts, museums, garages, contractors and yes taxpayers. In a town where only 34% of the town property is fully taxes every bit counts. The airport is a win for everyone.

  2. Chelsea Huff says:

    This is the most ridiculis statement and letter. An expanded airport would benefit the entire economy. Google: Block Island Airport, for example. They boost the entire economy on block island. Get a life.

    1. Carol Diehl says:

      I did Google Block Island Airport, and found out it’s an airport that serves an island, a geographical anomaly that would appear to make an airport more of a necessity than one could argue for in the Berkshires.

  3. Jim Johnston says:

    So what you’re saying is, essentially, anything fun that you can’t participate in for whatever reason is bad. Give me a break. You must be one miserable person. For one, unless you’re living in the family farm house, you bought your home knowing full well that the airport was there. If you don’t like it, perhaps you shouldn’t have purchased a home there?

    I have yet to see a proposal for “giant” hangars. I see a proposal for buildings slightly larger than a multi-car garage that adorn most of the homes sprouting up in GB.

    Did anyone petition against the noise pollution your music studio created? Didn’t think so. Get a grip!

  4. John says:

    Mr Weber,
    It seems a little education is in order. Your contention that airplanes have no mufflers, is frankly, wildly out of touch with reality…. every cessna 150, skyhawk, skylane Cherokee etc has a muffler. In fact, the FAA requires an annual detailed inspection of that muffler. Really now….
    Rules: Again a little research or even a well placed phone call would help the education issue. The federal government has literally volumes of regulations surrounding aircraft that have evolved over decades…. it would be both silly and unsafe to have a separate set of regulations for each town…
    Giant hangers? Nope. Do you have a garage for your car or truck?
    Lead? Most old homes, especially the nice ones, (lead was an expensive adder to paint which allowed it to last longer which not all could afford), where people live and eat, in the Berkshires are abolutely loaded with lead.

    I thoroughly enjoy watching families bring young children to watch the miracle of flight! And I have seen many seniors watch birds soar aloft as well!

    Reading your letter once again, suggests what you desire is isolation from human activity. I can understand that at times, but the concerns you identify, suggest a move to the Berkshires may not have been the best choice for isolation you so desire

    1. Joseph Method says:

      John, I agree with the rest of your points but you keep making this illogical point about leaded gas. Lead whether in paint, pipes, or gas is a public health hazard. The fact that homes in the Berkshires have lead in them (hopefully painted over and encased) has nothing to do with whether we should be adding more lead to the atmosphere and water supply. I think people have unfairly piled on the airport, but if there is a practical alternative to using leaded avgas they should be required to use it.

      1. John says:

        thank you for your response. We all wish an equivalent replacement to avgas was available. However, it does not yet exist in an equivalent form in volume.
        I agree that less lead introduced into the environment is better. However the primary means of lead ingestion remains hand to mouth activity in the home, with the sources usually from friction wear surfaces such as windows and doors opening. Lead concentration in soil is usually below measurable levels unless there has been runoff from a home such as from the drip line.
        The source of lead in water is usually lead solder leaching.
        At this point, the biggest complainers of the airport are contractors that would profit nicely from developing the airport into luxury Homes or hotels.

  5. Jim Johnston says:

    Why didn’t comments keep being deleted? Is it because I don’t buy into the edges liberal adgenda?

    1. Steve Farina says:

      It would be nice to know why comments get deleted, and by whom…I too have had comments inexplicably disappear on this site, on numerous occasions, and it is rather disappointing.

      1. Patrick Fennell says:

        Join the crowd. I am the Deleted King of the Edge.

  6. Tom Norton says:

    Sorry Jim, Private aviation is a fantastic part of our American heritage one that I admire. I marvel at the skill it takes to be a pilot. I relish the opportunity to be a local observer of the different planes that show up here on occasion. Yes it is an expensive hobby and not without risks but I feel lucky that we have this resource in our locale and wish I could partake of it more.

  7. DB says:

    I have never used the airport and hate to fly,( sorry Steve M), but I do still see the value of this airport to the community. Sometimes things that you do not need or use yourself are still indeed valueable and important. You are being insular and while i feel for your distress, you should have thought about the airport when you bought your home. Change is inevitable. The cost of your property most likely reflected the proximity to the airport, or at least should have.

  8. Nancy DuVall says:

    Dear Mr. Webber. Did you not look around and notice who else lived in your neighborhood before you bought your house? It is an airport, for heavens sake. Perhaps when they improve mufflers for planes, they will invent them for whining neighbors. Just a thought.

  9. Carol Diehl says:

    I have not kept up on the airport issues and reading this letter was part of an effort to begin doing so. What struck me was the reasonable tone of the letter, and the nasty personal direction of the comments, such as “You must be one miserable person,” “what you desire is isolation from human activity” “You are being insular” and “Get a grip!” “Get a life!”. Then the argument that an airport that serves an island contributes to the community in the same way one does that’s landlocked, or because lead is in old homes it should not be a problem here, or that change is inevitable and its specifics should not be questioned. I came in with an open mind, and suggest that if the expansionists want to succeed in swaying opinions in their direction, there are better ways of doing it.

    1. David says:

      Hear, hear! Well said.

    2. John says:

      Thank you for your thoughts and comment. It is important to recognize that the biggest complainers of the airport are building contractors. It is no secret that small town general aviation airports barely hang on, and that developers constantly attempt to shutter them and then build housing developments.
      In this case, the sharks are circling and trying to squeeze the airport to death, using any and all excuses possible. One shark is in the housing construction business and another shark (and his attorney) are in the luxury hotel construction business.
      Great Barrington airport had been a fine neighbor since he days of Orville and Wilber Wright. The minor changes the airport had asked for simply make it a little more sustainable. This is the little old lady worth the last property the developers want so desperately….
      Meanwhile the sharks circle, trying to shutter it and develop it to housing or luxury hotel projects.
      Please leave the little old airport alone and enjoy the spirit of flight !

      1. Richard Stanley says:

        I am considering just that for my next project !!

  10. Joseph Method says:

    John (responding to above). I take your points about the primary sources of lead. I don’t have a sense of how much avgas from a little airport like that contributes to lead in the environment compared to those other sources but agree it’s probably not a major factor (it could still be a major concern for people living nearby though). I would just point out that all this is progress from having removed lead from automobile gasoline decades ago; previously people got it in the air, the soil, everywhere. All that said, it looks like the FAA is planning to ban avgas in 2019 and is looking for an alternative fuel for piston-powered planes, but it hasn’t finalized anything yet: https://www.flyingmag.com/running-on-empty

  11. Johnny Appleseed says:

    James your a whistle blowing bafoon. Get a life.

  12. Anthony Ehrlich says:

    Hi Carole Owens,

    Just read your article on the Music Inn and it brought back memories. I arrived in Pittsfield to work for GE in June of 1960, where I later met Jack Trowill. I had been to Tanglewood with my music-loving family earlier and was already enchanted by the music and atmosphere there. In my youthful enthusiasm I signed up to be an usher at most of the concerts that summer, which turned out to be a little TMM (too much music).

    In 1961 I was living on South Mountain and met my soon-to-be-wife Beth. We both loved jazz and went to the Music Barn several times, where we saw and heard Ella and Louis and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. (It was not until several years ago that I realized how extraordinarily good the latter were–my bad!) Music Barn was great and I so regret all the performances I missed there.

    I never met Arlo, but I did meet Alice Brock and, very briefly, her husband Ray Brock. We were in a Town Players “workshop” performance of The Time of Your Life, and I recruited Jack Trowill to do the lighting and sound, which he handily accomplished. Alice was the daughter of a local card manufacturer named Joe Pelkey, a great character who himself performed in at least one other regular Town Player production staged in the Berkshire Museum, Romanov and Juliet.

    Alice had a modest roadside restaurant on one of the north-south roads that Beth and I used to take to and from Long Island, where my folks lived. We ate there once and, one winter evening years later, in her upscale restaurant near Tanglewood. I remember getting out of the car in the parking lot to a powerful aroma of garlic issuing forth from the kitchen.

    Beth, who was German, was an organizer in the International Club of Pittsfield. We toured Wheatleigh together, and she invited Stephanie Barber to our house in Lenox, to arrange a Club event there. I remember Stephanie as attractive, nice, and very cooperative, and attired completely in black leather, very sophisticated in my eyes.

    Beth and I had four kids, moved from Lenox to Lanesboro after the second, and, other than occasional visits to Tanglewood, pretty much confined our activities to friends, family, and career. I became good friends with Jack and now he and I are once more in touch and he regales me with stories of our working days.

    In fact, it was Jack who introduced me to your work in The Berkshire Edge and who sent me a copy of Remarkable Women of New England, which I recently read with keen interest and enjoyment.

    Thanks for all your fine writing.


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