Posted: Dec. 12, 2018 12:01 am
GREEN -- Trinca Airport's past, present and future continue to stir area residents into response or silence as the township's deadline for the Request for Expressions of Interest or REOI for Trinca approaches on Dec. 14.
Jack and Kathleen Townsend are township residents who believe if Trinca Airport should remain an airport, the costs of maintaining what is mainly a recreationally-used airstrip should not fall on the backs of township taxpayers. They are two of many residents who reportedly disagree with the viewpoints two pilots expressed at a Green Township Committee meeting on Nov. 5 in favor of keeping Trinca a municipal airport. While a number of stakeholders have sided with the Townsends' insights, they have declined to comment to the New Jersey Herald about the topic.
The township's REOI was first posted for the 1,924-foot municipally-owned turf strip on the township's website Oct. 3. The REOI states the township is "looking to either bolster the airport as a destination with amenities and attraction for visitors, or in the alternative, improve the site for another use."
John Trinca founded the public use airport in the 1940s, selling it to Alex and Fran Davidson in 1986. Residents became divided in the 1990s when Trinca was considered for a light freight aircraft and corporate jet facility. The township purchased the airport around 2003. While the strip now lacks facilities, it has become a site for touchdown practices and model airplane events. In an interview with the New Jersey Herald in October, Green Township Clerk/Administrator Mark Zschack described the 105.8 acres comprising Trinca and its adjacent farmland-preserved properties as "underutilized."
At the November meeting, resident Laura Bugay said she favored Trinca remain a "very low-key" airport, though she did not embrace the transformation of Trinca's surrounding acreage to parklands after a fatal crash at the airport in 2017.
Eric Schlueter, a United States Powered Paragliding Association certified instructor, also appeared before the Township Committee that night suggesting parks for the preserved lands; and that he could relocate to Green from Wantage to help run and maintain the airport.
Joshua Weinstein -- a pilot, flight instructor and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association volunteer -- additionally asked the committee to consider keeping Trinca as a municipal airport and recreational tract; and asserted Trinca could be preserved with grant monies. Weinstein described Trinca in a "state of disrespair" and said the flight school where he teaches no longer permits students and instructors to fly there. Weinstein has been publicly outspoken about dwindling municipal airports, commenting in a 2013 New Jersey Herald article against the sale of Newton Airport to PSE&G for its Susquehanna-Roseland Transmission Line Project.
In response to the New Jersey Herald article about the Nov. 5 meeting, Jack Townsend commented as a retired commercial pilot, still employed as a consultant in the aviation industry. While commending Schleuter's work as an ultralight instructor, Townsend called ultralights "radically different" from traditional aircraft. Kathleen Townsend called ultralights "essentially strapped on lawn mower engines with a propeller." Jack Townsend called Weinstein's remarks "scare tactics" about his flight school not using Trinca.
"There are plenty of airports," he said. "Trinca wouldn't be used for touch and goes if it was deemed unsafe."
Jack Townsend coined Weinstein's suggestion about significant grant monies available for Trinca as "pie in the sky stuff;" and said grant requirements come with a tight leash. Kathleen Townsend said she doubted an investor with the millions needed to upgrade Trinca to a first-rate airport would come forward; and residents would not be open to pilots leasing space at Trinca "for next to nothing." The Townsends said those with interests in the airport like Schlueter and Weinstein should make a viable offer to the township "once and for all."
Kathleen Townsend said Trinca's main use comes from non-residents who do not pay a fee to take-off or practice. In its current state, she called Trinca "obsolete and redundant;" and said nearby airports like Andover-Aeroflex and Sussex have full facilities that can service practices and take-offs.
"We cannot afford to make any more investments with no revenue," said Jack Townsend. "The township is running out of money and we need a stable source of ratable revenue. That's over 100 acres not being taxed."
The Townsends said they believe the space should be transformed into a destination to sustain economic vitality; and developed into something "pleasant and meaningful to the community that brings ratables, but not an airport with our tax dollars -- those days are over."
In an interview with the New Jersey Herald on Tuesday, Zschack said the township has not yet received any official REOI submissions. Zschack said he has had conversations with multiple parties about the property and received a letter from a resident about Trinca. He said "any information or ideas are going on the table."
Submissions are not binding, do not signify a project has been awarded and will be explored in public meetings, Zschack said. If the Township Committee and public embrace a submitted idea, Zschack said the potential party would be asked to engage in a formal bidding process and submit a Request for Proposal.
Jennifer Jean Miller can also be reached by phone at: 973-383-1230; and on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JMillerNJH.