Opinion

Dover-Foxcroft airport or a solar array? Why choose when we can have both!

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Recently this newspaper published an article about the possibility of the town entering into a lease agreement to place a solar array on the Dover-Foxcroft airport property. The town manager, Jack Clukey, was quoted as saying, “In order to do that, the site would no longer function as an airport.” Unfortunately, there is far more to this story than what this quote suggests. A follow-up story suggests that local pilots opposed the solar project, hindering something which could potentially have financial rewards for the town. This is simply not true.

In a phone call days ago, Town Manager Clukey confirmed there are other, better, available sites. BDN has a recent article about several Maine towns who have opted to use their landfill properties for solar array sites. Fortunately, we happen to have exactly such a site. It’s approximately 30 acres and since nothing can be built over a landfill, it’s an ideal location for solar panels. And adjacent to that site is a 70-acre parcel. SInce a 3-phase power line runs beside this site, it sounds very appealing. The town also has plenty of other acreage on numerous sites, so the landfill option is only one of many.

Briefly, of all the available town properties, the Charles A. Chase Jr Memorial Airport is by far the least desirable. As the name suggests, this is a memorial airfield, as the plaque mounted on a boulder near the flagpole clearly states. It was a gift from the Chase family to the people of Dover-Foxcroft as an “air field,” not a power station. Presently, there is an enormous amount of support among pilots and of course the Chase family. Our Facebook group “Save the Charles A. Chase Jr Memorial Airport” has almost 500 members and growing every day. The airport has many visitors as this week’s log will show, but only two hangars are allowed, despite demand for more. With a town government commitment to a secure future (at no additional cost), we can add hangars and greatly increase activity, all good for the local economy and community.

The runway consists of five acres, yet 30-35 are required for a 4-megawatt station. Ample acreage exists on site surrounding the runway also. Many well run towns have functional airports with shared solar arrays and landfill array sites. Decommissioning the airport runway is a permanent closure that simply is unnecessary. It’s beyond disrespectful to the donors of the air field and totally short sighted to sacrifice a site with so much unique potential value when even a capped dump can host this or a larger array.

Please attend the meeting on Nov. 12 and let your select board know we can have our cake and eat it too.

Graves is a former Navy strike jet instructor pilot, now a longtime 737 airline Captain who began his flying career at a small airport exactly like Chase Field.

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