Decision To Close Northern Minnesota Airport On Hold!

by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2020 issue

In the April/May 2020 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, the rural airport in Isle, Minnesota (MY72), and its all-volunteer association, were featured.

At an earlier meeting between the city, MnDOT Office of Aeronautics, and the airport association, the issue of tall trees located on private property to the south was discussed. An air-easement exists giving the city authority to clear these tall trees, and the State of Minnesota has offered to pay 80 to 90 percent of the cost, with the airport association willing to pay the remaining cost. These trees are the last remaining obstacle for the airport to once again be designated as “public-use,” and the State of Minnesota’s offer is dependent on the airport becoming public. The city was also informed that State of Minnesota funds are available for maintaining the airport once public status is granted. Unfortunately, some city officials are not in favor of having the airport at all.

At the conclusion of the meeting, state officials told the city that it must vote to enforce the air-easement and clear the hazardous trees or the State of Minnesota would revoke the airport’s current private airport license and close it.

The city’s opposition to the airport boils down to “economics” – the city council does not see an economic value in the airport or perhaps elected officials see a more profitable use for the property. However, with a decline in tourism and businesses in the area, due to fishing restrictions on nearby Mille Lacs Lake, the airport does and can play a major role in generating economic development in the area.

Local pilot and property owner, Dave Retka, President of the Isle Airport Association, is leading the save the airport campaign. A decision was to have been made at the city council’s April 14th meeting, but has been delayed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Dozens of pilots and leaders in the aviation community sent letters and made phone calls to the city council in support of clearing the trees and reclassifying the airport from private to public-use.

Dave Retka has provided the following update:

The vote on enforcing the easement, cutting trees, and opening the way to becoming public was to be in April. That, of course, was cancelled (due to the Coronavirus Pandemic) and the entire airport agenda was moved to the May meeting. Yesterday, the Isle city clerk told me the May meeting will be done via video, but since the public could not be involved, there would be no airport discussion. All airport agenda/discussion is now moved to the June 8th meeting.

So, we continue to “hold,” but our association is going forward with business as usual. We have rolled the runway, have our mowing equipment all ready to go for the season, and the courtesy car will soon be ready for our members to use. We are encouraging our members to fly in and any visitors to join in (with permission – we are still private), but to be cautious of tall trees to the south.

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