Last week, this space reported on the beginning of the Adirondack Regional Airport, located in Lake Clear, when the planning board in Saranac Lake in 1940 discovered 1,200 acres on a map that looked perfect for an airport.
The land was owned by Paul Smith's Electric Company, which they deeded to the town of Harrietstown, and the federal government funded the airport's construction.
The official dedication of the airport took place on July 10, 1949, although Resort Airlines provided summer service as early as 1946. The airport is owned and operated by the town of Harrietstown.
I don’t know how this proposition was presented to the taxpayer since July has no scheduled election, but however it got to those 272 taxpayers who voted the ballot speaks for itself.
(Ilustration courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac lake Free Library)
More about the dedication
There was quite an impressive group of local citizens involved in that 1949 dedication. The following were on the Saranac Lake Airport Commission: George H. LaPan, A.F. Shortt, T. Jefferson Newbold, Clifford W. McCormick, Robert Bogie, Frank E. Sheldon and Hubert G. Miller, an attorney, who was also Harrietstown supervisor at that time.
Other members of the Harrietsto-wn Town Board were Mr. Sheldon, Gordon Vosburgh, Ralph B. Leonard, Clyde C. Cheesman and A. Douglas Bombard (Nat LeDuc's Dad, who had died in an accident earlier that year); Matthew Munn was town clerk.
The airport manager was Harold C. Rideout (what a shame his name wasn't Flyout), and here are a few who served on the actual dedication committee:
Eugene Keet was in charge of "light plane events," then, on committees ranging from parking to guest speakers, were Robert Distin, Thomas Sheridan, Francis LaVallee, Charles Keough, Capt. Andrew Fortune, N.Y.N.G. (I had joined the National Guard two years earlier and Capt. Fortune was my first Company Commander); Miss Agnes Johnson was secretary to this committee.
Events of the day
There were letters of congratulations from the United States under- secretary of commerce and from Harold Keller, the New York state commissioner of commerce. The days program was loaded with events such as the following:
Fly-Over with F-51 Mustang Fighters; Acrobatic Flying by Dick Benson; Military Maneuvers by the 410th Fighter Squadron Auxiliary from the Royal Canadian Air Force with three De Haviland Vampire Jet Fighters and, among other events, an air sea rescue demonstration staged by U.S. Coast Guard Sikorsky S-51 4-place helicopters.
The airport today
So with that impressive dedication 59 years ago, I asked the present Harrietstown Supervisor Larry L. Miller to give me a 2008 update. The following is what he said:
"No matter how much information has been presented to the taxpayer in the Tri-Lakes, there is the belief that our airport is a tax drain on the local tax base. When, in fact, the airport is responsible for the support of 117 jobs and approximately $15 million in economic impact to our region. The bulk of the airport revenues are derived from fuel sales of Jet A, worth $1.2 million, and AvGas, worth $208,000. Taxpayers in the Town of Harrietstown are responsible for only $89,000 to balance the airport budget. How many citizens would spend $89,000 to make $15 million?
"Have you, as a taxpayer, visited the airport in the last eight years? Have you noticed the progress that has been made to upgrade the airport infrastructure? All five taxiways and one of the two runways have been completely renovated. A new FBO (flight base operations) building and several hangers have been built. Within the next two years, Adirondack Regional Airport will be one of the most modern small airports in the country. Due to the presence of a commercial air carrier, the Federal Aviation Administration funds 95 per cent of airport projects, the New York state Department of Transportation funds two percent and the town of Harrietstown two percent. During the last eight years, here is how those totals add up: $25,000,000 FAA; $625,000 state DOT; and Harrietstown, $625,000.
"Our airport is one of the best-kept secrets in New York state," Miller said. "We have a bright future, thanks to the vision of the airport management team, the airport marketing committee and the town board. Since Cape Air has taken over the commercial operation, it has increased air travel in the Tri-Lakes with safe, reliable service and low rates with more than 1,000 passengers in the past few months, up from zero in January 2008. We haven't seen passenger numbers like this since the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid."
Miller serves on the town board with Deputy Supervisor Barry DeFuria, Councilmen Ron Keough, a former supervisor, Dean Naegele and Robert Bevilacqua.
(Editor's note: This column appeared in the print edition of the Enterprise on Saturday, Oct. 11 but was mistakenly not posted online immediately.)