Airpark serving community well

Published 2:08 pm Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stop by the Lawrence County Airpark on most days and you will see small planes flying in and out of the recreational aviation facility.

Drop by on a Saturday afternoon for about two months in the late summer and early fall and you will see flying of a different kind as hundreds of area youth use a small portion of the land as a playing field for the Eastern Lawrence Youth Soccer Association.

However this opportunity for more than 200 youth could be jeopardy after the owner of the land disputed allowing the property to be used for this person.

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Richard Wilson, whose family owned the land and leased it to the county years ago, contends that allowing the youth to use a portion of the property as a playing field violates the terms of the agreement that says the property will be used as an airport.

While we have not seen any documents, it seems unlikely that such a limited usage of a small portion of the 80-acre facility would violate the terms of any reasonable agreement.

The two points at issue are this: Is county property — or property it is leasing — being used to the greatest good of the community and, secondly, are the youth in any danger by playing there?

The answer to the first questions is a resounding “yes.” The boys and girls participating in this program get great benefit from the organized sports and look forward to the games each week.

Are they in any danger? We haven’t seen any evidence of that at this time. Wilson argued that an airplane could crash where the games are held but that seems to be an unlikely scenario. It may be just as likely that lightning strikes during a light rain or a driver careens off County Road 1.

Safety should be of paramount importance and until the Federal Aviation Administration or some over agency cites evidence that there is a legitimate risk involved, the games should go on.

One other issue somewhat confusing this debate is the county’s efforts to use eminent domain to take ownership of about seven acres of unrelated land Wilson owns in order to create more safe access for pilots using the airport. It appears these two issues aren’t related and that this is truly about safety. The county has had disputes with Wilson over property for a number of years.

The county commissioners have made the right decision to continue to allow the soccer league to use the property.

In the end, our county’s youth are the ones who benefit and we have yet to see any compelling evidence this affects the airport at all.