I was saddened this past week to hear a story about how the runways at the old municipal airport were being ripped up. This is not really news but it is a milestone. The decisions leading this latest action were made long ago and the destruction has been ongoing for years. First it was prohibition of scheduled flights, then running car races on the airport (what an indignity to that hallowed and historic site). I still think that the closure of YXD, our City Centre Airport will go down as the biggest mistake in the history of this City.
I have been hoping that some forward minded politicians and civic leaders would come to their senses and reverse the decision before it is too late. Once development starts there will be no going back because the cost of clearing a track of land big enough for an airport within the City will be billions of dollars, perhaps even push to a trillion. Of course the cost and the political implications mean this will never happen. Once that airport land is gone, there will never be an Edmonton airport again.
I know some people will say the decision was made, it was decided by the citizens in a referendum, so just let it go. Somehow though the full history of that decision has been conveniently forgotten. The airport closure came on the second referendum – the first referendum, in 1992, saw Edmontonians vote to keep to the Municipal Airport open! Then in what I still consider a mysterious process, a second referendum was called for in 1995 and there seemed to be a lot of money flowing into the “Close-it” campaign. I don’t recall hearing where that backing came from but it smelled fishy and I’ve always suspected the money came from someone with an interest in seeing the airport closed (and making a healthy return by redeveloping the land) or someone who had a financial interest in the International Airport and saw money to be made if/when the International airport took off as a result of the closing of the municipal airport.
I always wished that a crack investigative journalist would have taken on the task of putting together the pieces of that 1995 referendum campaign but I fear that twenty years later it may be difficult and too late.
Of course the super highrise developments that are already underway and planned for downtown have also sealed the fate of the traditional airport flight paths but I still hold out hope that some air services, even if just a heliport and small plane facilities, would be retained. Hope though I may, I won’t hold my breath waiting for this to occur.