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Changes already planned for Houlton airport

HOULTON, Maine — Last month, town and economic development officials joined with local pilots and members of the airport advisory committee to sketch out a tentative improvement plan for the airport.

While town officials have long lauded the advantages of having an airport in the town, efforts to harness a long-term success plan have been fleeting.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said Monday, however, that this new group of individuals is bringing a wealth of ideas to the table.

“I think the meetings are going well, and we held the last meeting at the airport to show people who haven’t been there in a while what it looks like and what is going on there,” she explained. “It is great to have everyone around the table.”

Anderson noted that suggestions for improving the airport started with simple things, such as installing more signage to direct visitors to areas businesses, to bigger ticket items, such as repairing airport buildings.

One of the suggestions, setting up a small coffee and beverage bar inside the fixed-based-operations building, already has been done.

“It is nothing big or fancy. We just set it up in an area of the building where there is already a soda machine, and there is water and crackers and peanuts and things,” she said.

They have next set their sights on the parachute float building, a relic from when the U.S. Army established a prisoner-of-war camp at the airport to house some 2,000 German soldiers captured during World War II. Anderson said that the building needs some cosmetic work.

“We plan to put some new rolled roofing on it and paint it,” she noted, adding that they also will put some storyboards up similar to the ones in Riverfront Park to illustrate the history of the POW camp.

Camp Houlton was operational from 1944 to 1946 and once housed thousands of prisoners who picked potatoes, chipped ice and harvested wood to support the Allied troops. Today, there are just a few relics on the site – mostly concrete foundations that once supported the buildings. A World War II airport control tower, one of the few still standing, is also in the park.

“I think it would be great to find a way to draw attention to the history of the area,” she said. “There are also already trails up at the airport. We would like to get those mapped and focus on some outdoor activities. We need to get people to understand through some marketing that it is more than just an airport.”

She anticipates another meeting will occur in September.

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