District of Muskoka to discontinue the development of Airport Runway 12-30
The District of Muskoka approved the recommendation from the Muskoka Airport Board of Directors (Board) to discontinue the design and development of Runway 12-30, in the May 15, 2023, Council meeting.
According to the Board, the construction cost for the Runway in 2022 was estimated at approximately $1.9 million to $2.15 million. This is an estimated increase of $900,000 to $1.5 million from the approved budget. This doesn’t include this year’s increased inflation and construction costs.
The Board indicated that the development would have also resulted in a removal of trees from a neighbouring property.
Board Chair, Len O’Connor expressed frustration about companies that were once interested in the airport now “stepping back.” He said, “The last thing I want to be told is to get your house in order, and we’ve been told that.”
Councillor, Don Smith, said, “12-30 is not ideal, and we need to start checking things off and make decisions that will allow us to move forward. Costs will continue to go up. We need to take this off the table.”
Councillor, Peter Kelly, suggested that 12-30 was a less costly option.
Huntsville Mayor, Nancy Alcock, suggested that the airport wasn’t a feasible option for the future, given that it has issues with wetlands and neighbouring trees. She advised, “It should be put to bed.”
Bracebridge Mayor, Rick Maloney, advised that the runway was no longer a part of the Master Plan, nor is it a viable option today given the costs involved.
Members discussed the reality that the costs of the runway outweighing the revenue generated from it, and the burden to the community.
Councillor, Ruth Nishikawa, suggested that members consider the cost to the taxpayers for a site that isn’t generating a lot of revenue, for the sake of accommodating “a handful of people” benefitting from it.
According to Councillor, Robert Lacroix, the runway may have been used more if it hadn’t been neglected for 10 to 15 years. He said, “Pilots stopped using it because it’s a hazard with rocks and dips…not maintained by the District to full capacity… Anything you neglect will eventually corrode away.” He suggested that pilots wanted an east west runway for emergencies.
Alcock said, “I don’t think 12-30 ever made sense.”
After hours of deliberation, Councillor, Terry Glover, expressed that Council has a skill-based Board that are working in the Town’s best interests. He added, “They’re not going to tell you something to put you in jeopardy… Follow the recommendations of the board…and move along.”