National Park Service Managers at Death Valley National Park in California are seeking public comment regarding future plans for the Stovepipe Wells Village. Plans include repairs and upgrades to water and sewer systems, and an expansion of the RV campground. They are also proposing to close the Stovepipe Wells airstrip and convert it into a dedicated night sky viewing area.
Death Valley National Park has 3 airfields. The Chicken Strip, Furnace Creek (LO6) and Stovepipe Wells (LO9). None of these airfields have fuel or facilities. Furnace Creek and Stovepipe are both paved but are in serious need of repaving. The National Park Service says they can’t afford maintaining both paved airstrips. They claim repaving Stovepipe Wells will cost $3,000,000. The Navy Seabees are willing to donate men and equipment to repave Stovepipe Wells airfield, but the materials would be the responsibility of the Park Service. The Park Service says they would still need to come up with $1.5 million and they don’t want to spend that on the airstrip. So, the proposal is to maintain the strip at Furnace Creek and close Stovepipe Wells.
Park managers claim the Stovepipe Wells airstrip is not used very often. Pilots that wish to fly to the park can use the Furnace Creek airfield. But officials also admit there are no rental car agencies or mass transit facilities to get pilots to Stovepipe Wells (approx. 25 road miles away). The park Service says there is a growing interest in attendees that enjoy night-sky astronomy, so with all this in mind they wish to close the airstrip.
Airports for general aviation in and near national parks have high value. There are plenty of areas in Stovepipe Wells that could be used for a large night-sky viewing area. Stovepipe Wells airfield is already closed to night operations, so the park Service does not need to remove the runway to move forward with the project, they can coexist. There were billions of federal $ approved for infrastructure projects this year and perhaps Park Service officials are not making the necessary effort to get the funds.
We are encouraging members and all interested aviators to take the time to make public comment by the on the proposed closure of Stovepipe Wells airstrip. You can do so until the February 28,2022 at this link: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=297&projectID=72747&documentID=118017 You can also mail your comments to: Death Valley National Park, ATTN: Stovepipe Wells Plan, P.O. Box 579, Death Valley, CA 92328.
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