Last month, I attended the Wings and Wheels fly-in event at Essex Skypark and presented a County Council Resolution honoring the park for its contributions, and dedicated efforts to preserve and promote aviation in eastern Baltimore County.
For those not familiar with Essex Skypark, it is located on the Back River Neck peninsula, and the last remaining general aviation airport in Baltimore County. The Skypark property is owned by Baltimore County, and leased and operated by a small group of aviation enthusiasts, known as the Essex Skypark Association (http://www.essexskyparkassn.org). The Skypark caters primarily to ultralight seaplanes, and it is the runway used by all of the advertisement banner planes that fly over the Baltimore region.
This year's Wings and Wheels Fly-in event was extra special because until recently, the SkyPark's continued future was unclear. The association's lease with the County was due to expire, and the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability had identified the property as a potential site to offset and comply with certain federal mandates, planning to remove the runway, plant trees, and make other adjustments to the land once the Skypark lease expired. The association approached me about the notice they had received informing them that their lease would not be renewed, and shared with me their story, prideful history, and the relationships that had developed over the years with the adjacent communities on and around theBack River Neck Peninsula.
The environmental goals were commendable, but the majority of the land is already open and undeveloped, and my first thought was how difficult it would be to move or relocate an airport. Relocating would be a tremendously difficult task, and even if there was land somewhere to accommodate the move, would any nearby communities embrace the idea of airplane hangars and a runway relocating to their backyard? I was very sensitive to the idea that if forced out of its existing location, it would be lost forever, and it was clear to me that saving the Skypark outweighed any alternative plans for the use of the land.
With the support of my office, and various state and local officials, the association successfully secured a 99-year lease, which ensures that this unique treasure is not simply part of Baltimore County aviation history, but will be around for generations to come!
Kicking off its first "official" event since the long term lease was secured, and the fly-in was reassuring and serves as a great example of the results that are achieved by partnering and working together. Of course, it also reminded me of the powerful roots that flight and aviation have here in eastern Baltimore County. Not only were the planes built for many years and continue to fly in/out, but entire neighborhoods were established to house the workers at Glen L Martin's plant, and still today the street names in neighborhoods like Aero Acres off Martin Blvd. bear the names of airplane parts (Compass Road, Fuselage Ave., Propeller Drive, etc.)
Whether preparing for take off in the cockpit from Essex Skypark, MartinState Airport, or the Air National Guard's military base, watching from a distance at one of the local waterfront parks, or learning about the rich aviation history at the Glen L. Martin Aviation Museum, the sixth district has plenty of aviation related activities to enjoy. I urge you to experience them yourself!