1:35 PM

This is a City
that "Gets It"

In our day and age, it is not uncommon to see greedy developers either building their McMansions under the approach to an existing GA airport, or even worse, going after the very dirt the airport sits upon. We hear stories all the time about airport closures or neighborhood groups bitching about the noise, and city management doing just about nothing to help keep their city's GA community alive and well.

With that in mind, I am thrilled to bring you this:

St. Petersburg, Florida Mayor Rick Baker and members of the local aviation community recently dedicated Albert Whitted Park, the largest addition of public parkland to St. Petersburg's waterfront in nearly one hundred years. Amenities of the new park include an aviation-themed playground and great views of aircraft landing and taking off at adjacent Albert Whitted Airport. Visitors are also able to hear control tower communications at several shelters overlooking runway 6-24.
That is seriously some of the best news I have heard in some time – a rare dose of positive news in this continuous battle waging between municipalities and our airports. While many cities have no clue to the value of that little patch at the edge of town, apparently the people who run St. Petersburg got that memo. Not only did they simply dedicate this new park with the traditional ribbon cutting, they made it into a fun family event:
Festivities also include aircraft displays, an Angel Flight exhibit, control tower tours, free Young Eagles flights, simulator rides, aviation activities and crafts for kids.
As anyone with a brain knows, kids are GA's future...this is not news. But what IS news is someone using public funds to improve a park with the concept that kids will actually get excited about flying. While I applaud this monumental stroke of genius, Fresno was way ahead of them, in theory but certainly not in substance:
Back in 1966 when I used to ride my Sting Ray bike over to Fresno Air Terminal (FAT), they had a small parking lot off McKinley Avenue where people could park their cars and watch the inbound arrivals to 29R/L. As a 10-year-old kid, that boring little lot was a draw to this fence hanger, and as a student pilot 32 years later, I returned there to study the GA flying machines slipping by overhead as they slid into 29L. I could see first-hand what the pilot was doing with his/her rudder pedals to compensate for wind, and could hear small throttle corrections to maintain airspeed.
AOPA's Alyssa J. Miller gives us a little backstory to explain why this new airport park in Florida is such a significant turn of events:
"AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Jack Tunstill and local airport supporters were fighting to keep the airport open in 2003. A group wanted to close the airport so that part of the land could be turned into a waterfront park. AOPA worked with Tunstill and local pilots to educate the community of the value of the airport, and when the issue came up for a vote during the 2003 elections, residents voted three to one to keep the airport open in perpetuity. Now, the airport is thriving and has a new terminal building."
This is yet another reason to become an AOPA member if for some ridiculous reason you are not already.

And please PLEASE make sure the next time you are in the vicinity of the Florida mid-Gulf shores-Tampa area, make a stop at KSPG and somehow find a way to say "thank you" to the first St. Petersburg people you see. If you have a minute, you might also want to shoot their Parks Department an email, phone call or fax at the numbers below and tell them they are a serious contender for Aviation Friends of the Century.

St. Petersburg Parks Department
1400 19th Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
Phone: 727-893-7335
FAX: 727-892-5103

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