A stand of fir trees that partially blocked the final approach path to the city-owned airport at Blaine, Wash., was removed in October after more than two decades of struggle with descendants of the original landowner. It’s not just a victory for airport users, but helps ensure the airport’s future as well.
The airport, designated 4W6, is located adjacent to Interstate 5 near Vancouver, Canada. At 48° 59.3 N, 122° 43.54 W, it’s within a half mile of one of the three busiest customs ports along the international border. It’s so close to the border that part of the traffic pattern is in Canada. Development interests have sought over the years to acquire the 50-acre property for commercial uses, and have opposed removal of the trees as a way of depressing airport use.
It’s a locally popular destination because of low fuel prices (currently $2.90/gallon for 100) and an adjacent shopping mall. Traffic using the single 2,490-foot VFR runway is encouraged to operate east of the field, land north on runway 32 and depart south to avoid heavily populated areas north and west of the field for noise abatement.
But the stand of over 500 trees, mostly Douglas fir and Giant Sequoia up to 150 feet tall, was a significant obstacle for landing and departing traffic.
City efforts to remove the trees aroused local airport opposition beginning in the late 1970s. Airport opponents sought unsuccessfully to close the field in 1978, 1989 and 1992, the wording of the ballot measure in 1989 requiring the city to not only keep it open but “commit to improve Blaine Airport for aviation related uses.”
The trees were planted by landowner Arnold Evans 50 to 60 years ago to provide retirement income and a financial safety net for his wife should she outlive him, which she did by 10 years. But when Evans died in 1968, the trees remained. The property passed eventually to a step-grandson who fought removal of the trees for over 10 years. Eventually, Blaine began condemnation proceedings, and when the current property owner lost an appeal, the cutting began, finally clearing the approach corridor after 25 years.