Friday, July 28, 2017

Navy base security concerns force feds to close St. Marys Airport (4J6), Camden County, Georgia

ST. MARYS, Ga. -- An airport with blank runways and almost no traffic are at the top the list for safety and security concerns at Kings Bay Naval Base.

"The airport, in its current location, we look at it as a threat, a safety and security threat," said base Public Affairs Officer Scott Bassett.

He says proximity between the St. Marys airport and the base is to blame.

It’s so close that the airport has to warn pilots of restricted airspace. On at least 10 different occasions, a skydiver has landed on the base or a misguided plane has flown into restricted airspace.

"I'm at a bit of a disadvantage because I'm not going to tell you specifically what those threats are," Bassett said.

On September 14, the FAA is formally closing the airport, something the Navy has been requesting since 9/11.

"It's very complicated," Bassett said. "You may be accusing the government of moving at a snail's pace."

The city of St. Marys will have to hire a contractor to paint massive yellow Xs every couple hundred feet over the runways to formally close them.

"The decision by the city was how do we make the best adaptive re-use of the land?" said City Manager John Holman.

Holman said the city has been in limbo waiting on the feds to decide if the airport would remain open or closed.

"It's just hard to develop a program for something when you're not sure," Holman said.

The airport property is the highest ground in the city, making the 280 acres marketable.

"The airport costs money for the city to operate," Holman said. "It is not what you would call a revenue generator."

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