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Airport plans uncertain

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

For city planners, trying to determine the future of the South Field of the Oshawa Executive Airport has been a difficult task, mainly due to the uncertain future of the airport itself.

During the most recent efforts to prepare a South Field Master Plan, something that has been on the books for a number of years and also recommended in the city’s 2015-2019 Oshawa Airport Business Plan, the city realized a small conundrum.

Any plans for the future of the South Field, the area south of the airport’s runways, would need to correspond with the city’s plans for the airport.

The problem lies in the fact that despite the city’s commitment to the federal government to operate the airport until 2047, there’s a caveat that should an airport open in Pickering, making Oshawa redundant, the city would no longer need to operate the area as an airport. However, a council resolution passed in 2008 means the city will operate the airport until 2033, even if an airport were to open in Pickering.

With that said, it leaves both sides of the coin to plan for. First, if the airport is to close at some point, the city’s intent is to extend Stevenson Road and Beatrice Street through the existing area. The other side of the scenario would see the airport continue to operate.

Either way, whatever the city’s plans are to be for the South Field, they must fall in line with either of these potential realities, and it’s proving tricky.

“What you’re trying not to do is do something in the short-term that might affect the ability to do something in the long-term in the event that the airport were to close,” says Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services. “When you think about doing a land use study, normally, it’s for a long-term, whatever land use you pick. In this particular case, staff have identified if the airport were to close you have this large opportunity for the entire airport lands.”

As is stands, the city has gathered much of the background information to inform any future plan, however, there still needs to be a public consultation process in order to gather resident feedback on what they think should be done with the lands moving forward.

Currently, the South Field is home to the Ontario Regimental Museum, 420 Wing, Gemini Gymnastics, a community garden, the NAV Canada control tower, a live training facility for Oshawa Fire Services, the Field Electrical Centre, Airmen’s Park, and a soccer field.

As it stands, these uses tie in with the city’s Parks, Recreation, Library and Culture Facilities Needs Assessment which identified the area as a good place for a future park, recreation or library facility.

Regardless of the future uncertainty, Ralph notes that he sees heritage being a significant factor moving forward.

“I still think that there’s a role for the South Field to play during those timelines as a historical heritage museum and recreational focus…and continuing to build on that,” he says, adding that all options will be considered when the study reaches the public process. Due to the election this fall, any future consultation has been pushed into 2019.