Keystone Airpark gets face-lift


As others wait in line Preston Mangus of Green Cove Springs refules his Piper Cherokee Six airplane Saturday at Keystone Hights Airpark. The re-dedication of the Airpark drew more than 120 planes for the festivities.

DARON DEAN/ Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 12:33 a.m.
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - People came by air and by highway Saturday morning to see for themselves if three years of work at the Keystone Airpark had really created what local officials were touting as "One of Florida's best kept secrets."
"This is wonderful. Really, truly wonderful," said Truman Herman, a winter resident of Jacksonville. "What they have done here makes it so much more attractive to fly in and out."
Herman, whose stepfather flew out of the airpark for the U.S. Army during World War II, said he plans to begin using it as his primary runway in Florida for his small plane.
"I don't need the hassles that go with flying in and out of the bigger airports like the one in Jacksonville and I don't need the jet fuel they sell in Gainesville, so this works out great for me," Herman said.
Saturday's rededication was a chance for Herman and hundreds of others to get a good look at how the Keystone Airpark Authority had spent $300,000 in federal grants to develop a modern building for the fixed-base operator at the airport and renovate a major hangar.
The fixed-base building is where the airport's business is conducted, giving pilots a reception area and providing office space for fuel sales and other aviation business.
"We're not trying to be a regional airport," said airpark authority chair Dean Weaver. "We want to be competitive with a different clientele - for example those manufacturers based outside of Gainesville who need a place to easily fly in and out of and of course a place for aviation enthusiasts."
The 2,505-acre airpark is one of the largest in the region. It is 705 acres larger than the Jacksonville airpark.
"A lot of people don't realize how large an area the airpark covers," said Lex Green, president of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The airpark was built by the U.S. Army in 1942.
Responsibility for the land was given to Keystone Heights in 1947 at the end of World War II, and the authority was created in 1991. The airpark property includes 1,253 acres dedicated for timber and wildlife, 297 acres set aside for industrial park use, 241 acres that are park lands and the balance are used for aviation, including two runways - one that is 1,025 feet long and another 4,900 feet long.
"We're between Jacksonville, Gainesville and Palatka and the zoning here includes industrial, recreational and aviation uses," Green said. "We even have half the shoreline of two lakes on this property. This has great potential to draw tourism to this area."
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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