Fly Or Drive, Airport Controversy in Walnut Ridge

WALNUT RIDGE (KAIT) It's a battle between the airport commission and members of the Walnut Ridge Country Club.

The airport wants the country club to vacate and the members want to know why.

The Walnut Ridge Country Cub has sat alongside runway 18/36 for nearly 40 years.

Terry Ryan WRCC Board Member. "We did sign a lease in 1972 with the city of Walnut Ridge. And the lease expires in 2068."

After such a long time the airport commission has served notice that the country club must vacate so that airport improvements can be made.

Ryan, "It is our understanding that the airport applied for a new certification for the airport. "

What the airport is looking for is a 139 certification which allows the airport to serve scheduled and unscheduled carriers with more than 30 seats or more than 9 but less than 31.

Ryan. "We have no scheduled passenger service and we have no charter flights that are based here."

In fact all I saw using the runways were an ag plane and a twin I saw taxiing by the terminal.

The country club runs along encircles the end of runway 18/36 and under 139 this could present a safety hazard .

What basically kills the golf course is that they will have to clear the land from the center of  runway 18,  500 feet which takes it out almost to the middle of the golf course.

This would involve cutting down many  trees and eliminating all but two holes.

Right now there is no way for the course to relocate to some adjacent land near the airport.

Ryan, "We had a golf course designer come in and look at it. And there's not enough room left to relocate all the holes. We did get costs at their (commission) request on what it would cost to totally re-locate. And it came close to a million 600 dollars for us to pick up and leave."

According to Ryan the airport has not given them a solid reason why they suddenly want to move in and close them out.

It's not runway length.

Ryan, "There is a runway that was extended from 5 thousand feet to 6 thousand feet and it is in the master plan to extend it to 7 thousand feet that runway does not come into play with the golf course."

We did try to contact the airport manager and commission members and the mayor of Walnut Ridge for comment but since the case is in litigation they have been advised not to make any comments at this time.

At the moment both the country club folks and the airport commission are waiting for the outcome of a hearing in November.