"Landings at Mt. Rainier, LLC" Begins Saving the Airport
(photo by Bob Walter)
first two homes in the 21-home Aviator Heights residential development
next to Swanson Field are taking shape, with an open house planned
for the first one before the end of October.
by Bob Walter
September 25, 2017
Swanson Field (aka Eatonville Airport) is in the news again. At the
September 11, 2017 town council meeting, Byron Adams, of
the Ashford-based corporation, Landings at Mt. Rainier, L.L.C.,
read a press release announcing new ownership of the airport runway.
The opening paragraph of the release reads, "Landings at
Mt. Rainier, LLC is happy to announce the purchase of the
two parcels of land that make up 2600 feet of the town of
Eatonville's Swanson Field from Mrs. Sharon Burlingame, widow of
United Airlines Captain H.W. (Hal) Burlingame. This property was
acquired with the express intent of preserving it as an airport for
the town of Eatonville, its residents, aviation-dependent businesses,
and the next generation of Eatonville aviators."
This airport, since it was first cleared in the 1950's by
volunteer labor, has existed as a sort of partnership
between local aviation enthusiasts and the town, and has served as a
critical Medevac facility in rescue operations from Mount Rainier
National Park and elsewhere. Its future is once again the subject of
debate, including discussions at the most recent Airport Advisory
Commission meeting about a 10-year-old quit claim deed associated with
the middle parcel on the runway, that was originally crafted about 12
years ago to help preserve the airport in perpetuity.
At about that
time a preliminary plat for a residential development called Aviator
Heights was approved, and when the developer began making major
changes to the topography along the southeast quadrant of the airport,
which threatened to encroach upon air traffic patterns, the quit claim
deed was rescinded by Burlingame, who felt the spirit of the agreement
was not being upheld by the town administration.
Byron Adam's father, Rick Adams, is also a board member of
Landings, and has been an active participant in
discussions, both within the former Airport Committee agendas and at
town council, about how best to preserve this essential transportation
facility from encroachment by residential development and other
threats, and how to enhance its aviation-industrial development
potential. He currently serves on the Airport Advisory Commission, a
body which has replaced, in large part, the function of the former
council standing committee.
Aviator Heights is now partially-completed. After years of
hearings,countless letters and testimony from aviation
experts, professionals, pilots, Mount Rainier National Park in
opposition to a housing development on an airport. After litigation, a
bankruptcy, a proposal by a new developer, and numerous required
changes to the preliminary plat conditions, the final plat was
approved earlier this year as a non-aviation residentialdevelopment of
21 houses, with a row of hangars/businesses planned below them and
closer to the runway.
Four large hangars with facades have been built, and a
large, peculiar (for an airport runway) bordered, circular,
bed of gravel was constructed several years ago, straddling the center
line at the south end of the runway. As of this writing, several house
foundations have been poured, and two of the houses are nearing
While the impacts of this approved but uncompleted final
plat are yet to be seen, the fierce debate it has spawned over the
years is undoubtedly a large factor in continuing arguments and
maneuverings over the future of Eatonville's airport.