Winter is cruel to airports. As if oblivious to their needs, it
drapes them in snow, cakes them in ice and bloats their terminals with
malcontented hordes. But, in the end, the big guys prevail, be they in Toronto
Snow is cleared; ice
is thawed; and those malcontents are eventually satisfied.
No doubt Colette Morin is envious of that ultimate triumph.
Owner of Glacier Air Tours, she runs her operation from the tarmac in
Brackendale, where things are less certain. Last week’s weather saw the airport
rendered nearly useless, with the tarmac too covered in snow for any kind of
fixed wing flight activity. Dec. 22 and 23 were both bunk days for Glacier Air.
“We lost a day of revenue today,” she said, “and we did
yesterday, too. There were people wanting to do tours and see our beautiful
area, plus our regular students. So I phoned and asked, and (district
Operations Manager) Gord Prescott said, ‘Oh. Well, no. Actually, they took snow
removal from the airport out of the budget.’"
So Morin sat at her computer and pounded out a letter of
protest. Addressed to Mayor Greg Gardner, local media and other airport
stakeholders, she lamented the district’s care of the facility, saying the snow
removal issue is just another episode in a trend of neglectful governance.
By mid-afternoon, however, the ploughs had showed up to clear
the runways, though that wasn’t enough to satisfy Morin.
“We shouldn’t have to go through this, and we lost the whole
day, anyway,” she said. “Thanks to harassing them, we got them out here. But
why do we have to lose revenue?”
With a new council in power, airport stakeholders had been
hopeful for a change in approach. There are some signs of that happening.
Councillor Rob Kirkham has highlighted the airport as a priority, and Gardner
has also said the district’s management approach needs revisiting. This
business with plowing seems to be a relic from the previous administration,
which Gardner joined as a councillor, as did sitting Councillors Patricia
Heintzman and Corinne Lonsdale.
“My information is that council did remove snowplowing of the
airport as a separate line item in the budget,” said Gardner. “It’s not a
priority in our snowplowing schedule. It is actually currently being plowed as
we speak, so it is being plowed within our regular street plowing program. And
it’s a low priority.”
According to Gardner, the district nets about $8,000 a year
from leasing lots to airport parties. There are four businesses operating out
of the facility, as well as some 20 private aircraft. During August’s
rockslide, when the highway was closed for a number of days, the airport played
a significant role in the shipping of goods and people — though the
Flying Club has since said the whole operation was fraught with danger, again
because of district management.
Morin uses this and other arguments to frame the airport as
part of Squamish’s transportation infrastructure, though the mayor said council
hasn’t discussed the facility in those terms.
“We certainly consider it an important part of our infrastructure,” he said. “It's a part of our assets that we need to have a look at and a review of.”