Dunsmuir's Mott Airport has been revived just in time to stage aircraft for Lava Fire fight

Shareen Strauss
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers
After 6 years, completing the $3.2 million Mott Airport project, Dunsmuir City staff, County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela, Dunsmuir Council members, representatives from the Siskiyou County Transportation, past and current City Managers Randy Johnson and Todd Juhasz, Carol Ford with Ford and Associates,LLC. and Kimley Horn Associates that managed the project, LaMafa representative Erin Ryan, retired pilots and volunteers Dr. Ed Miller and Jerry Denham cheer Mayor Matthew Bryan as he cuts the red ribbon at last Wednesday's  ceremony to the new Dunsmuir Mott Airport runway.

Many dignitaries involved with the $3.2 million Mott Airport project in Dunsmuir gathered June 23 for a ribbon cutting ceremony of the airport's newly rehabilitated runway – just in time for the space to be utilized by firefighters battling the nearby Lava Fire.

The project has been in the works for six years. 

Dunsmuir Councilman Bruce Deutsch, who headed up the effort because of his background with the federal government, said that this is a critical airport for safety reasons and central for fire fighting and tourism.  

“Project manager Heath Hildebrandt with Kimley-Horn Associates, and Carol Ford with Ford and Associates, LLC are the two angels that made this airport happen and saw this project through to completely rehabilitate the runway,” Deutsch said. “And thanks to Doctor Ed Miller and Airport Advisory Commissioner Jerry Denham, both dedicated to helping get us here as well. We lost our transportation industry with the railroad, what's left is tourism.” 

Ford, who came on board originally in 2004 and then came back in 2015, wrote the FFA grant for $3.2 million. She says, "Even the construction of the runway brought revenue into the area. They stayed and ate here during the time they were working on this project." 

Deutsch announced, “Now that the 26,000 feet of runway is paved, we are looking to put in infrastructure with the 78 acres adjoining the landing strip. I think this is the future of Dunsmuir.”

Mayor Matthew Bryan cut the red ribbon and praised the current and past city managers, Carol Ford, members of the Kimley-Horn Associates, Dunsmuir council members, volunteers and Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s office for their "heroic efforts" with this project.

"Most importantly,  this will be the staging grounds for fire fighting which is a big threat," added Bryan. 

The U.S. Forest Service had their Chinook helicopter parked at the airport for fire fighting even before the Lava Fire grew into a more than 20,000 acre monster.

Dunsmuir City Manager Todd Juhasz said, "We had a lot of fits and starts with the runway project. I want to thank all our partners in procuring this grant and seeing it through fruition. The next project for the airport is to bring fuel up here, but for now I will see if the City of Weed will bring a fuel tender up here."  

Some of the problems they have battled through the years are fixing the flight pathway to FFA regulations, the legal problems of the trees around the airport, Dunsmuir's lack of funds and the crumbling surface of the runway.

Denham, along with Dr. Miller and other pilots would volunteer their time to fix things around the airport including pulling weeds on the runway. "We are the fix-it committee. We had 'Pie Thursdays' here. Now the airport is looking great again. This will be a huge asset for Dunsmuir," said Denham. 

Another grant that is coming is expected to pay for repaving the taxiway and tie-down area.

Angie Stumbaugh, Leticia Arreguiam and Andy Gilman from Siskiyou County Transportation came to see the rehabilitated runway and to give their support. "It looks great. We want to have this done in the north county. We are currently working with Kimley-Horn Associates on the Weed Airport," said Stumbaugh. 

It is expected that this airport will now, once again, be an asset to Dunsmuir.