Changes afoot at Shelton airport

The in basket: I’ll take a road trip to Shelton for this column, which is about as road-related as it will get. I hope it interests some readers. It’s about the changing face of Sanderson airfield, home for years to the Mason County Fair and Rodeo and the OysterFest, one of my favorite festivals.

The fairground improvements are due for demolition, possibly early next year and though it means a new location for the Oyster Fest and the rodeo, it may be the end of the fair.

A sign at the overflow parking area at this year’s OysterFest said it would be the site of the 2015 OysterFest. The event program showed the relationship between the old and new grounds, both on airport property and a half-mile apart.

A volunteer in the OysterFest information booth said the new site, an inactive airplane runway, will be an improvement over the old, which involves a long narrow approach road that made traffic control difficult.

Wendy Smith, deputy director of the port of Shelton, which owns both properties and Sanderson Field’s active airstrip in between, said a 50-year lease Mason County had for use of the fairgrounds area expired last December and the county quit paying the lease amounts in 2009. It also turned running the fair over to others that year.

She said the fairgrounds area is “designated aviation reserve. It’s supposed to be for aeronautic used only.” It may eventually be the site of aircraft hangars.

She said the rodeo has acquired a new site a distance north on Highway 101, but she didn’t know what the fair has planned.

County Commissioner Terri Jeffreys said she hadn’t heard of a new site for the fair, which the county no longer operates. She said the fair didn’t apply for a marketing grant for the coming year, as it has in the past.

She understands that the Skookum Rotary, which stages the mostly volunteer OysterFest, is looking for a permanent site and the inactive runway is to be just temporary.

Fair Board member Leilani Dixon said the last she heard no alternative land for the fair had been identified and that there is little land with the proper zoning for the fair. She referred me to the fair president, who didn’t call me back.

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As an aside, on the way to Shelton, we saw dozens of tall piles of logging slash alongside Highway 3 between Grapeview and Agate Road.  Each was capped with a clear plastic sheet, which looked kind of like a yarmulke, covering only the peak of the pile beneath. We wondered about their purpose, as I suspect others who drive there do. They’d keep rain off only a portion of each pile.

The answer awaited us at the OysterFest, where the Department of Natural Resources had a booth.

One of the DNR employees said he lives near the piles and knows that keeping the core of the piles dry is all that is needed. When wet weather comes, the piles will be burned, with the dry cores ignited and producing enough heat to ensure destruction of the entire pile.

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