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Grass runway at Muskoka Airport to be replaced

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The grass runway, also known as the crosswind runway, at the Muskoka Airport will be replaced.

The 2,200 ft. runway was temporarily closed in June 2020 because it wasn’t seeing a lot of use and was in need of repair and hasn’t opened since. Officially known as 09-27, it’s one of two runways at the airport. The other, 18-36, is the airport’s main runway.

District of Muskoka council voted 13 to nine in favour of closing the grass runway and developing a new turf runway for $994,300 at a different location, 12-30. The money is coming from the airport’s capital reserve fund.

The decision on what to do was made during the March 21 council meeting after council spent nearly three hours debating the issue.

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Council was presented with two other options. One of the other two options would have seen 09-27 be rehabilitated and council direct airport staff to focus on land development in the east and west.

The airport’s board, represented by Len O’Connor, the airport’s CEO, and Donald MacKay, the airport board’s chair, at the meeting, argued that the grass runway should be shut down permanently because of its historically low usage. They suggested the land be preserved for a potential future runway at 12-30, arguing there is “no current or future business case” for an alternate crosswind runway.

The report was done by Tetra Tech, who also helped write the airport’s master plan that was approved by district council in January 2021.

They write in their report that Transport Canada doesn’t require an airport to have a crosswind runway like 09-27. According to the airport board, 18-36 services more than 98-percent of airport movements. 

Pilots have expressed frustration with the inaction taken by council and airport management on the runway. In April 2021, pilot John Whitty said the grass runway is the safer of the two runways because it goes into the wind. The main runway isn’t into the prevailing wind. He said, at the time, council should pave and extend it.

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