Everyone was wearing a good-news-grin at the Long Beach Airport as the province announced over $1 million worth of funding for the facility.

Province funds new runway lighting for Long Beach Airport

$1.27 million of new lighting is coming in for a landing thanks to the B.C. Air Access Program.

The Long Beach Airport is soaring to new heights with new lights as a $1.27 million upgrade is on its way thanks to the B.C. Air Access Program.

The money will be spent on runway lighting and the funding announcement was made at a special presentation held at the airport on Aug. 5.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne spoke at the presentation and made her audience hip to the airport’s history.

“Try as we might, we cannot predict the future and I wonder if the decision-makers of the 1940s had any idea that what was built as a military airport would become a critical piece of transportation infrastructure in a thriving regional economy some 75 years later,” she said.

“It’s a historical irony that an airport built to defend our shores from enemies is now a gateway to welcome people from all over the world. The airport, although hastily built during WWII and initially only used for a decade or so as a military base, provided ‘good bones’ for the way we use it today.”

She said the airport is the fastest way to get people and goods to and from the West Coast and serves as the only access point for emergency response teams and air ambulances.

“It’s perhaps a bit of geographical irony that the flattest land between Tofino and Ucluelet is also the foggiest, and today we live with the decision made 75 years ago to locate the airport here, which has presented some significant issues, especially with respect to safety,” she said.

“The ACRD has worked hard to improve the airport since acquiring it from the federal government in 2000, but it takes many partners to realize a successful airport.”

She touted the efforts made by Tofino, Ucluelet and the surrounding First Nations and also thanked the local business communities and residents.

She added the Federal Government and Parks Canada have been key players as well.

“I am so pleased to have the Province of British Columbia as one of these partners, and on behalf of the Regional District, I’d like to express a sincere thank you for your significant investment in the safety of our airport, and in our region’s economy,” she said.

“Please let me also express sincere appreciation to the (Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s) remarkable staff which has been working incredibly hard on the operations of both the ACRD’s airports, and on a myriad of funding applications in the past months.”

The province was represented at the event by West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy who spoke on behalf of Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone.

“Tofino, Ucluelet, Long Beach and the surrounding area are all known for their world class tourism attractions and experiences,” Sturdy said.

“Adding runway lighting will allow the airport to expand its services, especially with the expected increases in tourists visiting the area, and driving those tourists visits and ultimately encouraging further economic growth in the region.”

He said the province plans to invest $24 million into BC’s airports over the next three years through the BC Air Access Program.

“Aviation is critical to the BC economy, supporting jobs, enabling investment, facilitating travel, tourism and trade within the province, within Canada, and internationally,” he said.

“It’s important to industry including oil and gas, including mining, including forestry, and I always include tourism as one of those industries that is key to this province.”

Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques expressed huge gratitude to the province.

“This is such an exciting day and we can’t thank the province enough. We appreciate so much that you’re willing to invest in us out here on the West Coast and in our region. It makes a world of difference,” she said.

“We’ve all been working so hard to get this for so many years…it affects our economy, it affects our health of the region and it’s just wonderful.”

The Wickanninish Inn’s managing director Charles McDiarmid served as the presentation’s MC and said the airport has come a long way since the Inn’s early days when he would look to Cox Point to gauge whether planes could land.

“If the cloud cover was above the top hillside at Cox Point, I would let the airline know that they were good to go to arrive in Tofino, so things are changing which is wonderful,” he said.

“It’s great to see the airport achieving its potential.”

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca