Ocean County Officials Defend Airport Upgrades
Ocean County officials are standing by their plans to build a crosswind runway at the Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township, despite loud and resounding opposition from local residents and environmentalists.
The proposed 3,400 foot long runway would clear out hundreds of acres of trees in the area and disturb wildlife. The Pinelands Commission has scheduled a hearing for this Wednesday night in Berkeley Town Hall. Freeholder Joe Vicari says the plan actually pre-dates the current Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Commission itself and would have been done 40 some odd years ago if they had the funding.
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Vicari explains "the money ran dry and the project was put on hold. This was back in the 1970s. The plan all along was to eventually phase it in. Over the past 30 years, the use of the airpark has gone up significantly - not just local pilots for recreation but also serves as an important part of our emergency management plans in the event of a disaster either natural or man made."
The proposed upgrades have environmentalists bristling. They're worried about the impacts cutting down more trees would have on the wildlife in the area. The Freeholders are planning to purchase over 400 acres of open space nearby using money from the Natural Lands Trust Fund. Some locals have argued that isn't what the money is for and plan to oppose it at Wednesday night's meeting.
Vicari adds they are confident this time the plan will go through. He says "it's smart for Ocean County. The FAA says this is what needs to happen there and we plan to comply. We are also not trying to sidestep regulations. We will meet all necessary obligations set by the Pinelands Commission but we will NOT put the burden on the taxpayers."
The meeting takes place at 7 on Wednesday night.