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For the week of October 18 through 24, 2000

State and feds save Stanley strip

‘Vital link’ preserved


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The only thing missing was apple pie.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne visited with Stanley’s school children yesterday, handing each a toy airplane after the children performed "America the Beautiful" for the Governor.

Beneath the purple mountain’s majesty of the Sawtooths yesterday morning, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was taxied down the Stanley Airport’s runway in a vintage Red Baron-style biplane, driven by Stanley pilot Bob Danner. The plane cut a ribbon in celebration of the tate’s purchase of the airport.

Stanley residents, Sawtooth National Forest personnel, Sawtooth Society representatives and people from the world of big business clapped and cheered as the ribbon split. As the governor climbed out of the cockpit of the vintage red plane, Stanley school children sang "America the Beautiful," in honor of the visit.

"It comes down to access," the governor said in an interview shortly before boarding the plane. "This community must have access in order to keep its economy, keep its tourist base."

The state and the U.S. Forest Service cooperated in buying the property to ensure that it remains in use as an airport. The state paid $650,000 for title of the 73-acre property to its previous owner, the Stanharrah Corp. of Reno, Nev. The Sawtooth National Forest paid the corporation an additional a $1.6 million in the form of a conservation easement on the property.

The airport, which sits on a glacial moraine above the city of Stanley, was owned by Stanharra spokesman John Sande III confirmed that sale and possible development could have resulted had the Forest Service and state not stepped up to the plate.

"The airport has always been something that has been there for the city, but it’s also a very valuable piece of property," he said in an interview at the airstrip. "Over the years we have had a number of offers from developers."

The grass landing strip is 4,300 feet long and is 6,403 feet above sea level.

According to pilot Danner, owner of Stanley Air Taxi and the current operator of the Stanley Airport, the first airplanes to land in the Stanley Basin landed on the Ace of Diamonds Street in downtown Stanley.

He said the current Stanley Airport was initially constructed in the 1940s by the Idaho Transportation Department, along with the help of a number of volunteers from the city of Stanley. The land was originally owned by the Piva family of Challis, and was leased to the state as an airport for $1 per year.

The land was sold to Stanharrah Corp. in the 1970s. After the purchase, Stanharrah continued to lease the airport property to the state for a number of years.

Yesterday’s celebration culminated in a year and a half of effort toward preservation of the airport, Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere said in an interview.

According to Stanley Mayor Hilda Floyd, between 40 and 60 planes land in Stanley each day during the summer.

"In the years of low water, this airport can see as many as 70 planes a day flying supplies into the surrounding national forests," she said, calling the airport a "vital link" between Stanley, outfitters in the wilderness and big city medicine and fire protection.

Preservation of the airport "is going to catapult this area, unfortunately, into more tourism," Floyd said despondently, looking at the inevitable flip side of keeping the air access artery open.

Kempthorne said the state of Idaho owns about 30 airports, most of which are in backcountry locations. He said those airports are important for health and safety reasons, as well as for wildfire fighting efforts in summers such as the one just passed.

Sawtooth Society president Bethine Church commended Kempthorne and past Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus for working on the Stanley airport preservation project.

"That kind of cooperation makes life worthwhile," she said.

 

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