NEWS BLOG (WSAU) There’s an airport in Lake Murray, Oklahoma. No one uses it.
This is not at all like Central Wisconsin Airport, which has mostly small planes and limited airline service. It’s not like Amtrak – a mode of transportation that time has passed by. You can argue for or against whether federal dollars should help operations at CWA or for cross-country passenger trains… but some people do use these government services.
Lake Murray State Park airport isn’t like that at all. It has no commercial flights. No control tower, no radar, no hangars, no lights. It’s a runway in the middle of nowhere. Usage: about 15 flights a month during the summer; mostly private pilots who land only to use the bathroom at a nearby golf course. During the winter, weeks or months can go by without a single takeoff or landing.
But Lake Murray State Park airport qualifies for federal grants – a modest $150,000 a year. And under current rules, money that’s granted to an airport that doesn’t need it can be “banked” and spent on other airports that do need it. Close the airport? That’s like saying ‘no thank you’ to money. The State of Oklahoma won’t do that. The local parks department has a different view… they have to mow the grass and manage the weeds around the runway, and don’t want to spend their money to do it.
The Washington Post did a report on Lake Murray – which they described as “an ATM that’s designed to look like an airport”. http://tinyurl.com/aknf7pn
There are 85 or so of these low/no use airfields that are used as tidy little piggy banks by states around the country. There are just enough states that benefit from these FAA grants, funded by surcharges on jet fuel and airline ticket fees, that there’s no political will to end the program. This program won’t be touched by the sequester either.
Between now and Friday we’ll be at a fever pitch over government cutbacks, furloughs, and shutdowns as the sequester deadline approaches. When you hear about the U.S.S. Truman stuck in dry-dock or kids being thrown out of Head Start, remember the money our government is spending at the Lake Murray State Park Airport.