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County to cut acres of trees near airport

Last year, the county cleared dozens of acres of trees around the runway at the Crystal River airport. This year, the county is planning to do the same at the Inverness airport.

Beginning next month, to come into compliance with aviation regulations, the county plans to clear more than 22 acres of trees along the west side of the runway.

An additional 350 trees, generally taller pines, also are to be cut down in nearby areas, including parts of the county's planned Holden Community Park, a 40-acre site that is to hold a 1-mile walking trail and soccer fields.

"It won't be clear-cut, not in the park," County Administrator Gary Kuhl said.

But, he said, "some of those taller trees will have to come out."

Kuhl said the county has been out of compliance with federal regulations for years by having trees that encroach on the airport's "obstacle-free zone."

Last year, the state Department of Transportation decided trees were growing close enough to the runway to order the airport to turn off its lights for night landings and allow only daytime use.

The DOT has offered to pay for 90 percent of the tree-clearing work through revenue from aviation fuel taxes. In addition, the county plans to resurface the runway with help from the DOT.

Some residents who live nearby are watching the county's tree-cutting effort closely.

Patricia Cloward, who lives in the Inverness Highlands, said she is concerned that removing the trees could "spoil the park."

Kuhl said that the tree-cutting will have little effect on plans for the park.

"It's something we need to do," he said.