New Airport Coalition To Host Workshop, Seeks Green Space Conversion At SMO

Friday, 6 Sep 2013, 9:14:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

A coalition of Santa Monica residents and groups hopes Santa Monica Airport’s future is the same as Meigs Field Airport in Chicago. This single strip airport operated from December 1948 until March 2003 until it was closed and a park created after the Chicago Park District refused to renew the airport lease.
Images courtesy of airport2park.org
A coalition of Santa Monica residents and groups hopes Santa Monica Airport’s future is the same as Meigs Field Airport in Chicago. This single strip airport operated from December 1948 until March 2003 until it was closed and a park created after the Chicago Park District refused to renew the airport lease.

The year 2015 is inching closer with each passing day. As July 1, 2015, approaches, the debate and discussion about the future of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) will likely intensify, as certain agreements with the federal government are set to expire.

A coalition of residents and groups – Airport2Park.org – hopes to steer the SMO debate and discussion toward building a “great park” on the airport grounds, expanding upon the sports fields and park area already on portions of the premises.

To that end, the coalition is hitting the ground running and hosting a community workshop next month “to envision what the park could be.”

Entitled “From Airport to Park: Turning Santa Monica Airport into a Park for Everyone,” the workshop takes place Oct. 3 from 6 pm to 9 pm at Mount Olive Church, 1343 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica.

“Airport2Park.org is a coalition uniting residents who want to seize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a great park in place of the Santa Monica Airport,” John Fairweather, Chair of Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic (CASMAT), said in a statement.

According to the coalition’s website, the new group was inspired “from parks around the U.S. and world that were transformed from airports, old railways, and more.”

The coalition lists eight parks converted airports, railways, or other transit facilities, including Cornfields Park just outside downtown Los Angeles, Stapleton Park in Denver, Colo., Northerly Park in Chicago, and the Great Park in Orange County, Calif., among others.

Cornfields Park, for example, was formerly the Southern Pacific Transportation Company’s River Station. The public open space is formally dubbed Los Angeles State Historic Park and is nestled between Chinatown and Elysian Park.

Stapleton Park is 80-acres in size and the third largest public park in Denver. The park was built on the site of the old Stapleton International Airport, which was the City’s primary airport until it shut down in 1995.

The Great Park in Orange County is still being built in El Toro, where a military airbase once existed.

In Chicago, Northerly Park was built atop the old Meigs Field, a single-strip airport shut down in 2003 and is now a lakefront open space.

Other transit hubs converted into public parks referenced on the Airport2Park.org site include Floyd Bennett Park in New York City, Tempelhofer Park in Berlin, Bulltofta Park in Sweden, and Edmonton Park in Edmonton, Canada.

The coalition boasts if a “great park” was realized at SMO, it could be one-third the size of New York’s Central Park.

“Santa Monica Great Park could be well over twice the size of all other Santa Monica parks combined,” the website reads.

According to the coalition, converting SMO into a public park would be the preferred course of action.

“Surveys have shown that the public overwhelmingly favors turning Santa Monica Airport into a park,” the coalition stated.

The coalition envisioned how the park could be used, if realized. For example, the park itself would feature trails, playgrounds, gardens, quiet places, and facilities for walking, hiking, jogging, and cycling.

As for SMO’s buildings on Airport Avenue, the coalition hopes they “could become arts and cultural facilities.”

“Buildings north of the runway now used for aircraft operations could become space for tech, environmental, and other business incubators; the rents to the city for these uses can support park operations,” the coalition continued in its statement. “A park will also allow for improvement of north-south street connections to improve traffic circulation.”

Speakers at the Oct. 3 workshop are expected to talk about how other airports in the United States and other countries were converted into parks.

Three groups make up the coalition that is Airport2Park.org, including Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, and Sunset Park Anti-Airport, Inc.

More information can be found at www.airport2park.org.

The Mirror will continue coverage of this issue in coming weeks and present opinions of those who seek to keep SMO open or seek other uses of the airport should its operation be limited or shut down completely.

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