More trees are going to be cut down at the Saratoga County Airport in the town of Milton.
The county board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee on Monday approved a $116,000 project to clear seven acres of trees that consultants say are blocking pilots’ view of the airport’s nighttime rotating beacon.
The state Department of Transportation will pay $104,400 of the cost, said county Public Works Commissioner Keith Manz. The county will cover the remainder.
Manz said all the trees to be removed are on airport property, and a screen of trees will be left along the airport’s Geyser Road property line. Woods now block views of the airport from motorists and residents in that area.
Manz said tree growth has made it hard for pilots to see the beacon, particularly if they are approaching the airport from the south.
“The tall pines are the problem,” said Michael Churchill, senior aviation manager with McFarland-Johnson, the county’s airport engineering consultant.
McFarland-Johnson will be paid $27,000 to write bid specifications and the oversee the project.
Some previous tree-removal projects at the airport have been controversial, such as the 2011 clear-cutting that removed woods from the southwest corner of the main runway, and left homes that were previously surrounded by trees exposed, looking across a field to traffic on Geyser Road.
Some trees were removed from private property during that project.
The project to increase the beacon’s visibility will be entirely on airport property, Churchill said. Milton Town Supervisor Dan Lewza said the land in question isn’t heavily forested, though there are some trees.
Churchill said the tree removal won’t happen until next winter, because there are concerns that summertime work could threaten habitat of the northern long-eared bat. The bat is currently under consideration for addition to the federal endangered species list.
Churchill told the committee that there will need to be a separate project this winter to remove several tall trees at the ends of all four runway approaches. “The trees around the airport have continuously grown,” he said.
The proposed landscape-clearing projects are the latest in a series undertaken after a private jet carrying country music star Brad Paisley clipped a treetop near Geyser Road during a landing approach in 2008. The plane landed safely, though the owner later claimed $500,000 in damage to the aircraft.
The airport currently operates under Federal Aviation Administration rules that prohibit nighttime instrument landings, though night takeoffs and landings are still allowed during clear weather.