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Bryan Sieve, a user of the Crystal Airport (right), talks about the merits of the changes being proposed at the Crystal Airport.

Environmental assessment targets trees in Crystal, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center

Approximately 80 trees around the Crystal Airport will be removed in the coming year as part of planned improvements at the local airstrip.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission held a public hearing May 29 at Crystal City Hall to outline the status of a draft federal environmental assessment and a state environmental assessment worksheet.

In addition to describing the processes involved in determining the trees that will be targeted for removal, commission personnel, presided over by Chairman Rick King, also provided a brief outline of the overall project.

Evan Barrett of Mead & Hunt led the presentation at the meeting, briefly describing actions previously taken by the commission and outlining the future steps needed for the project to be completed.

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Rick King (right), chairman of the planning, development and environment committee, and Evan Wilson (left), a senior attorney, listen during the public hearing portion of the May 29 meeting in Crystal.

To keep objects from interfering with landings and takeoffs at airports, the Federal Aviation Administration recommends plans that identify objects that could affect future operations. That includes managing vegetation.

To that end, the commission’s project team conducted an aerial survey of the area in September 2018. However, prior to the aerial assessment, an arborist also identified the species and maturity of the trees in the flight path of the airport.

Of particular interest were about 30 trees – mostly cottonwoods – in Brooklyn Park’s Edgewood Park that are expected to grow into the flight paths within the next five years. In all, there were 80 trees within Crystal, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center that have the potential to impede in the flight paths within the next five years.

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Evan Barrett of Mead & Hunt works his way through the draft federal environmental assessment and state environmental assessment worksheet during a hearing about updates at the Crystal Airport. The presentation was at Crystal City Hall.

Fifty of the trees are on private residential lots or public rights of way.

According to the documentation provided by the commission, the trees to be replaced in Edgewood Park will be done in consort with the city of Brooklyn Park. The trees expected to be planted in place of the cottonwoods will be hackberry, bitternut hickory, red oak and burr oak.

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The stenographer captures the transcript of the May 29 meeting about changes at the Crystal Airport.

As for the trees on private property, the commission will contact the homeowners sometime in mid-2020, with the expected removal of trees taking place between November 2020 and April 2021.

According to the commission, the homeowners will be financially compensated based on the fair market value of trees.

The project

The proposed project at Crystal Airport is set to be completed within the year, but the commission stressed that the removal of the identified trees would be completed regardless of whether the project was completed or not.

The final environmental assessment determination is expected to be completed yet this summer.

According to the commission, the purpose of the project at Crystal Airport is to align airfield infrastructure to meet existing and forecasted operations, preserve and improve operational capabilities for critical design aircraft; and enhance safety by simplifying the runway and taxiway layout at the airport.

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Chad Leqve (right) speaks with Bryan Sieve (left) about the proposed changes at the Crystal Airport.

The specifics of the project include:

- Closing runway 14R/32L and converting it to a full parallel taxiway;

- Reducing the length of turf runway 06R/24L to clear taxiways D and F from its runway safety area;

- Removing, converting and/or replacing various taxiways and aircraft run-up areas;

- Converting portions of runway 14L/32R blast pads to usable runway;

- Shifting the runway 115 feet to the northwest;

- Enhancing instrument approach capabilities;

- Improving ground vehicle circulation by constructing perimeter roads around runway ends on the north, west, and south sides of the airport;

- Increasing aircraft parking capacity by expanding the fixed base operator apron; and

- Developing excess airport property for non-aeronautical use.

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Rick King (right), chairman of the planning, development and environment committee, and Evan Wilson (left), a senior attorney, listen during the public hearing portion of the May 29 meeting in Crystal.

Next steps

The public review and comment period ended June 10 and all comments received during the period will be included in the final environmental assessment.

The assessment is expected to be prepared soon and submitted to the FAA, which will make a final determination.

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