OWLS HEAD, Maine — The cutting of trees on private properties near the Knox County Regional Airport is expected to begin next month following the acquisition of easements on 15 parcels.
And the money for those easements is being paid, in large part, through a federal grant which the county had expected to receive. The formal announcement of the awarding of the $198,000 grant was made Tuesday by Maine’s two U.S. Senators — Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King.
“Maine’s large geographic area makes air travel an important transportation option that connects towns and cities across the state,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Maine’s small airports, such as Knox County Regional, play a vital role in supporting local businesses, especially in the state’s more rural regions. This funding will help the city purchase land to make necessary safety improvements.”
Airport Manager Jeffrey Northgraves said Tuesday that the costs of obtaining the easements totaled about $350,000 which included the expenses for legal and engineering work. He said about half of the costs went to the landowners for the easements.
The contractor, who will be topping off trees so they do not pose a hazard to landing or departing planes, already has contacted and consulted with the property owners who will have work done on their land, Northgraves said.
The last time tree cutting was done on a large scale on private properties around the airport was in the 1990s. The Federal Aviation Administration has been urging the county to undertake this new work for several years.
The county also completed the installation earlier this year of 10,000 feet of fencing to prevent deer, turkeys and turkey buzzards from getting onto the runways and posing a threat to airplanes that are landing or taking off. That project cost $892,000.
The airport manager said that the deer that got inside the fenced area over the winter appear to have left. The deer got in when a gate blew open before the locking mechanisms were installed.