Airport to get new look

Tabitha Soden
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – Delayed flights and expensive tickets have defined the California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport for some time. But that could change soon according to Susan Abbott, who has been hired by the county to improve how the community views the airport.

“Right now it’s kind of a blank slate. We have a nice terminal but you’d never know you’re in a special place,” Abbott said.

NEW EVENTS CENTER? The county airport in McKinleyville may host special events, expos and business fairs. JD | Union

NEW EVENTS CENTER? The county airport in McKinleyville may host special events, expos and business fairs. JD | Union

That’s going to change, with several upgrades in the works.

The goal is to highlight the resources of Humboldt County — ranging from the redwoods to local businesses. The terminal will have murals depicting nature in Humboldt County, children’s exhibits and information about local culture and history.

The airport has applied for an Art Place America grant that would provide it the funds to display art showcasing the county’s diverse culture.

New additions will also allow for better use of airport space. A meeting room for businesses and community groups to use is in the works and Abbott said she hopes it will be completed by February 2015. The meeting center will be equipped with Internet conferencing capabilities and catering will be offered.

Abbott said the airport also plans to host events such as trade fairs and expos on the terminal floor. She hopes they can start scheduling events as early as next year.

But the airport is not just a place to hold events, it is a means for transportation.

“We need to woo back our community that’s been driving to other airports,” Abbott said.

People have been driven away from the airport due to frequently delayed flights. Contributing to the delays over the past seven years were federally-mandated runway improvements, both locally and in San Francisco. However, the majority of the work is now done.

In September, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that over 90 percent of all flights out of the McKinleyville airport made it to their final destination.

According to the county, 115,000 people currently go through the airport every year, but Abbott hopes to see that number increase. And with the Federal Courthouse moving near the airport, she suspects it will.

“We are revisiting what the airport could be to the community,” Abbott said. “We want people to come back and start using the airport again.”

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