Puyallup: News

Master plan committee addresses strengths, weaknesses of Thun Field

Thun Field maintenance lead Lissa Smith stands next to one of the new guiding lights installed along the Thun Field runway in on South Hill earlier this year. Pierce County is embarking on an 18-month journey to update its master plan for the airport, which hasn’t been updated since 1999.
Thun Field maintenance lead Lissa Smith stands next to one of the new guiding lights installed along the Thun Field runway in on South Hill earlier this year. Pierce County is embarking on an 18-month journey to update its master plan for the airport, which hasn’t been updated since 1999. jbessex@gateline.com

Pierce County is embarking on an 18-month journey to update its master plan for Pierce County Airport–Thun Field on South Hill, which hasn’t been updated since 1999.

And a lot can change in nearly 20 years.

A group of 18 people was assembled by the county for the Master Plan Advisory Committee (MPAC) and will participate in sessions over the next few months to develop the new plan.

“Their purpose is to help us set up the vision,” said Lauren Behm, Pierce County Planning and Public Works interim airport and ferry administrator. “We want the conversation to be about transportation, recreation and jobs.”

Their purpose is to help us set up the vision. We want the conversation to be about transportation, recreation and jobs.

Lauren Behm, Pierce County Planning and Public Works interim airport and ferry administrator

The members are local representatives from the aviation community, businesses, local and state government and law enforcement who will bring different perspective to the table to benefit the future of Thun Field, Behm said. Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce and local pilots are some of the groups represented in MPAC.

Aside from a tour of Thun Field, MPAC had its first official meeting on Oct. 16, where attendees discussed the current weaknesses and strengths of Thun FIeld and hopes for the future.

MPAC identified that Thun Field’s location, specifically its commercial ties and proximity to its South Hill residents, businesses, youth and aviation programs are strengths of the airport. MPAC also addressed the increase in growth on South Hill as an opportunity moving forward.

But that same growth could also be a challenge to grapple with, according to MPAC members. As South Hill grows, so could traffic leading to Thun Field and the impact of noise on nearby neighborhoods.

MPAC also addressed Thun Field’s visibility and presentation, including signs and banners, as well as renovations for its airplane hangars, as potential areas for improvement and to bolster its community outreach.

Growing the airport’s facility space was also of great interest to its members to draw more pilots to the area. Currently, Thun Field’s runway is 3,650 feet long and 60 feet wide, with 22 acres of pavement on the facility. Thun Field ranks No. 6 out of 136 publicly-owned, public use airports in the state when it comes to the number of operations (take-offs and landings) and number of based aircrafts. There are currently 230 aircraft based on the site, and there could be room for more.

There’s a lot of potential for Thun Field moving forward, said Shelly Schlumpf, president and CEO of the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce, one of the MPAC members.

I’ve had my eye on (Thun Field) and the potential of it for four years. It’s a great resource to have an airport here in Pierce County and in our focus area.

Shelly Schlumpf, president and CEO of Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce

“I’ve had my eye on (Thun Field) and the potential of it for four years,” Schlumpf said. “It’s a great resource to have an airport here in Pierce County and in our focus area.”

To receive funding for the master plan from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), MPAC and Pierce County are responsible for putting together a visual Airport Layout Plan (ALP) and a Capital Improvements Plan (CIP), which outlines year-by-year projects to complete at the airport. Both plans will be presented to the FAA. Mead & Hunt, which provides provides consulting services in architecture, engineering and planning, was selected to lead the update.

Two open houses about the updated plan are scheduled for next year. The public can stay updated on the project at piercecountywa.org/plumasterplan.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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