“Cut the darn fir trees!”

Published on Thu, Feb 8, 2001 by Soren Velice

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“Cut the darn fir trees!”

By Soren Velice

Blaine’s airport commission may be a step closer to its goal of a treeless area around the runway.

After talking with Trav Skallman, for whom an unofficial park west of the runway’s south end is named, the commission will likely move to cut the trees there and try to get a park named for him across the street from city hall. “My suggestion is to cut the darn fir trees,” Skallman said. “I don’t particularly like them anyway; I grew up in pine country.”

The plan to cut the trees is one part of a potential three-way land swap. Other pieces of the plan include trading the sign storage property across from city hall for a piece of airport property currently leased by Yorkston Oil Company while filling in the pond at the present park in addition to clearing the trees and making that piece available for lease. The property across from city hall would become the new Skallman Park.

The airport and city are currently looking at the feasibility of such a plan. “We’ve been banging around on this with appraisals,” said community and economic development director Terry Galvin. “As soon as appraisals are done we’ll know which way we’ll move on this.”

Commission co-chair Paul Southland said Skallman’s approval of cutting down the park’s trees would help eliminate a safety hazard for planes taking off from the airstrip. “If pilots are setting up for a crosswind, they might have a wind shear problem when they pass the trees,” he said. “Mr. Skallman has given us his blessing to take the trees out and that was a safety concern.”

Another safety concern lies directly south of the runway - trees as tall as 125 feet in the path of planes taking off and landing. Robert Carruthers, son of one of the property owners, has said his parents would sell the property outright to the city but are unwilling to cut the trees. “It is parklike and a very nice place,” Southland said, “ but unfortunately it moved into the 21st century in an industrial area.”

If the Evans, Carruthers’ parents, refuse to cut the trees, the city may use the right of eminent domain to acquire an access easement that would allow it to clear the property of tall trees. Barring a breakthrough in negotiations, commission co-chair Doug Fenton said that is a probable scenario. “I would say at this time that the most likely thing to happen is to get an easement by eminent domain,” he said.

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