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Letter: Great Barrington should grant special permit for airport

To the editor:

The Great Barrington Select Board needs to protect The Walter J. Koladza Airport (also known as Great Barrington Airport) if it wants to protect history and opportunity for the next generation of Berkshire County.

If you were to assume that individuals who owned airplanes based in Great Barrington were exerting their wealth for control of land, you would be sorely mistaken in the case of Great Barrington Airport.

In the case of this community airport, it is the property owners in the immediate proximity of the airport who are lobbying the town, using exorbitant wealth to hire big city lawyers from Boston to enact policy that protects their “not in my backyard” attitude.

The airport, on the other hand, is a community asset. The airport is home to an Air Medical Rescue facility and LifeStar helicopter that connects Western Massachusetts with the best health care in the world in times of emergency.

The local flight school connects residents of Berkshire County and those out of state with access to flight training at a time when the world is faced with a pilot shortage that Boeing forecast to be more than 602,000 persons deep.

The airport is a focal point for the community of Great Barrington and connects major strands of tourism. Great Barrington’s 2,579-foot runway acts as the main street for commerce and tourism, reuniting local farms and businesses with connections around the country.

While there is no such grassroots effort to close the airport, local pilots and pilots from across the country have generated a Change.org petition to protect Walter J. Koladza Airport from restrictive action from the Select Board.

It is ever more important now to protect the history that is lived at Great Barrington airport, which is a history that all Americans can be proud of. The airport was vital to the training of aircrews who would serve to liberate Europe from the jackboot of Nazi tyranny. Days after the tragic loss of two World War II vintage aircraft in Dallas, the symbols and spaces we use to preserve America’s anti-fascist legacy are more important than ever. The Select Board must answer for how it protects America’s anti-fascist legacy if it chooses to restrict the airport.

To protect history, economic opportunities and access to medicine, the Select Board should move to grant a special permit to operate the airport for the next generation of aviators, residents and freedom fighters alike.

Andrew Crider, Richmond, Va.

The writer is a pilot and aviation advocate who has frequented the The Walter J. Koladza Airport.

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