In the early days of Telluride’s rebirth, no one thought much about having an airport in Telluride. We could hardly keep our cars running and the water pipes from freezing in our houses.
There was a dirt strip in Norwood and one at Aldasoro that the ranchers used and a commercial airport in Montrose, but in the early years there weren’t very many flights and they were on Frontier Airlines which was really a lousy outfit. Plus, we didn’t much like Montrose, mainly because Montrose didn’t like us.
Our present day relationship with the Montrose Airport still has some tinges of these old time attitudes. Montrose benefits tremendously from the traffic that comes in through the airport bound for Telluride. Retail, real estate, and lots of jobs are driven by it, however, Montrose doesn’t pay it fair share of the airline subsidy program. Let’s say they are assuming that we need them more than they need us. In general, I believe that this is the type of ass—umption you shouldn’t make.
Technology, science and the whims of humans continue to change the world in every more interesting ways. How about a jet that seats 300 people and can take off and land in Telluride—one is presently under development.
Anyway, the Telluride Airport was a big deal. The Planning Commission ultimately made the decision to go with the present day location after eliminating Norwood for being to far away and the West Meadows for having a runway that ran north/south or cross-wind. The Zoline’s were very upset about this decision on the part of the P & Z, but I thought it was a no-brainer.
Allred and his bankers argued that the Mountain Village was a non-starter without an airport or at least the plans and approvals for one. In a meeting that I was having with Allred, Johnny Stevens, Bob Korn, and Senior Mahoney one day after everyone else had gone home, we were talking about the future and I think it was Allred that suggested that we all take out a piece of paper and write down the ten things that we thought Telluride needed in the order of their priority to us.
The results were interesting. Everyone one of us wrote down—airport—first. The other nine were something like: gondola, artists village, golf course, cross country track, new ski area lifts, ski lift at Oak Street, Mountain Village, resort hotel, beds, marketing, are the ones I remember.
We agreed right there to make the airport happen. We agreed that it should be at Aldasoro and everyone agreed that I was the one that needed to call Albert.
Within a few days, I called Albert at home one evening and we talked it over. He was up for it, but he wanted two promises from me. One was that in the public process that I would protect him from verbal abuse by the “no-growthers” and see that the process was fair and other was that I’d not stretch out the hearing process like I did in the Mountain Village hearings and either do it or not.
We agreed to a meeting with Allred and a few days later met at Ron’s office. Now Albert wasn’t so good at chit-chat, so we got right to it. It took five minutes to reach an agreement with Albert. He wanted to retain the south portion of the airport area and wanted to be paid rent on the property tied to de-planements, or so much per head. He’d put in the land and we’d do the work, raise the money, build it, run it—no real strings, or tricky stuff. Nor, was any mention made of the remainder of his property—he asked for no special treatment when he came in for zoning on the ranch.
Allred went to work and a few months later we were holding public hearings on the construction of an airport at Aldasoro where there had been a dirt strip for many years.
The public hearings were well attended and there were a few impassioned speeches that were memorable. The best was when a guy appeared that I didn’t know and gave an appeal to not build the airport because he was a mountaineer and rock climber. With great drama he told a story of how, in his line of work, he hung it out there and one wrong move could cost him his life. And, then he said, “Just imagine that I’m hanging from a sheer rock wall working my way up and I’m at the crux of the climb.” The room is very silent as this guy is very intense and he is standing and reaching high in the air for the imaginary ledge and then he says, “and just as my fingertips touch the hand hold, an airplane comes over my head and I lose my concentration and fall to my death.”
The room was silent as we all imagined it, and no one said anything. I certainly didn’t know what to say, so I said the standard, “Thank you for your comments, we will take that into consideration and thank you for coming.” The guy thanked us for allowing him his rights as a citizen to state his concerns and opinion and walked out. I know a lot of rock climbers, but I didn’t know this guy and never saw him again—ever.
The airport site was granted a zoning change and it took a couple of years to get together the money and all to build it, but it’s there and looks pretty much like we had envisioned it. The final vote on the airport approval was my swan song, I retired from the job as Chairman of the San Miguel County Planning and Zoning Commission and our family purchased the Telluride Times Newspaper which we would run for the next ten years.
One tidbit, that I think about every time I see Glider Bob is that when the FAA sent Allred the paperwork to apply for the construction of an airport there was a one page form that needed to be filled out. Allred called me at the bank and I was sitting with Lynn French who was a big time airplane pilot and who had landed many times at the old dirt airstrip at Aldasoro. Allred’s dilemma was there was a question which asked: “Do you want to have gliders or not,” and there was a box next to the question with Yes or No the choices. I put it on speaker phone and Lynn said, say yes. So, Allred marked it as a yes. For all of those that come after us, trust me, there were more decisions than you will ever know that were made just that way.
Later, we would come up with the idea to vote on the funding of the airport in the Town of Telluride and have the Telluride Company put up $1 million and the town put up $1 million if the ballot issue passed.
It passed by three votes.