The Williams Lake Airport’s land base has increased by 25 hectares thanks to a Crown grant from the province.
At the airport Friday, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes confirmed the transfer and said the two parcels of land in the grant are valued at more than $714,000.
“The Crown grant announced today will help the City of Williams Lake increase potential hangar space, which we all know contributes to the vital economics of this region,” Oakes said.
There is also potential for the Cariboo Fire Centre to expand its training and other facilities in the future, Oakes said.
She also acknowledged the work of mayor and council in pushing for the land grant, crediting them as the “driving force” behind the announcement.
Mayor Kerry Cook said the request for the land first came from council to government five years ago.
“It’s been important for us, not only economically, but for the future expansion of the fire centre, which has been a critical part of this region,” Cook said.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett thanked city staff and council for their dedication to obtaining the land.
“Without it, the Crown land transfer would never have happened,” she said of their persistence.
Airport manager Shea de la Mare said there has been a lot of interest in the airport, especially in the last year.
The resource sector is booming, our aircraft and number of passengers have increased,” he said. “There have been inquiries from private and commercial operators of aircraft and maintenance operators interested in building facilities at the airport.”
As he pointed to the new parcel of land adjacent to the south end of the runway, de la Mare explained that the area has been identified as a spot where business and private owners could erect hangars.
“This announcement means a lot to the city and the entire Cariboo region,” he said.
During her first year as minister, Oakes has seen three or four requests for Crown land transfers come across her desk.
“Under my ministry I’m allowed to grant a certain amount to municipal governments and this was an important one,” she said. “All requests go through the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.”
De La Mare said there are no plans to expand the 7,000 foot runway, although the city does have an application in the Airport Capital Assistance Program to repave it.
The runway can comfortably hold 737 and Airbus A320s, and while some of the larger aircraft such as 757s and 767s may not regularly use it, the airport has the capability to accept aircraft up to that size.
Coun. Surinderpal Rathor, who has been on council 21 years, said the city began asking the government for land to expand the airport back in 1993.
“A couple of times we got the land but there was a question of us giving government 50 per cent of the income we would earn,” he said.
“Today’s grant from Minister Oakes is really good news.”