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SLK: gem of the Tri-Lakes

To the editor:

The Harrietstown airport (SLK) is the crown jewel for the Capitol of the Adirondacks. Being able to balance the amenities and features you would find at a large urban airport with the quaint, hometown feel of a small regional airport is a contradiction in terms, but SLK does it well. It can handle large jets, you can get a home-cooked meal, rent a nice car, be minutes away from all our region has to offer without the hustle and bustle of a big airport.

It has some unique physical charastics compared to other Northeast airports as well. A look at the map of the Adirondack Park shows a vast, sparsely populated area of 6 million or so acres in the densely populated Northeast. The park reminds me of the Imperial Palace grounds surrounded by metro Tokyo. And in the middle of this Sea of Tranquility is SLK. Even the Plattsburgh and Albany airports are adjacent to urban areas and connected by major land and water arteries. Not so SLK — just a few roads lead to it. And that is all.

Recently the SLK airport got runway upgrades. It can now handle some of the larger (perhaps largest?) aircraft available: military and civilian. The runway upgrades and SLK’s relative (land-based) isolation make for some unique possibilities. In the event of national emergency, SLK could become a major staging area. The U.S. Air Force has the ability to set up supply depots, food distribution, fuel and repair, medical, etc., almost anyplace, provided it can land its large vessels. If material can’t land, then the USAF can’t work its magic. SLK’s runways might be suitable for the largest air transports. The few roads leading to SLK can be easily secured by the military.

So, the gem of the Adirondacks might, in time of crisis, become a major facility. Hopefully this scenario will never be put to the test, but a contingency plan might be worth looking into. During a military crisis, even if SLK is not used for military purposes, it might be considered a potential military facility by an adversary. In a non-military situation we might still have mass refugees, other disruptions, etc., if SLK is used as a de-facto depot.

Of course this is all far-fetched, like a zombie apocalypse or a worldwide virus that kills millions and ruins economies, but looking into the issues could be an interesting project. This topic impinges tangentially on multiple disciplines: urban planning, environmental studies, military studies, disaster recovery, political science and more. Perhaps a study on the potential impacts of such scenarios might be worthwhile.

Just a thought.

Ira Weinberg

Saranac Lake

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