Aircraft parking can damage the asphalt and cause it to sink. The airport board approved of two projects to install concrete hardstands to stabilize and reinforce parking and expand tie-down parking on the ramp. [Photo courtesy of Canyonlands Field Airport]

An aircraft parking project and an expansion at the Canyonlands Field Airport is being paid for with nearly $2 million in grant funding.

Canyonlands Field Airport Director Judd Hill delivered his latest report about the airport at the Grand County Airport Board meeting on Monday, Aug. 6, and discussed the board’s meeting the following day with the Grand County Council.

“All in all, we’re busier,” Hill said.

The airport reopened on May 1 after a renovation of the terminal and the runway to accommodate daily flights between Moab and Denver, Colorado. SkyWest Airlines is currently operating flight services.

At the meeting, the airport board and county council approved two contracts for two projects.

The first contract is for the installation of two concrete hardstands for stabilizing aircraft parking, and alterations to the ramp, signage and outdoor lighting systems. One of the airport’s two helipad’s will need to be removed in order to allow for proper clearance of the new parking hardstands, Hill said.

Hill said the weight of large aircraft parked on the ramp can permanently damage the asphalt by sinking. The two concrete pads will be reinforced to prevent damage, and are being paid for with a $1 million grant from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

The board voted and unanimously passed a resolution to award the contract bid to Nelco Contractors, of Price. Nelco Contractors’ bid was the lowest of the three that the airport received at $959,650.30. The FAA funds grants only for the lowest bids received for projects, Hill said.

A second project at the airport is planned to be constructed during the same time-frame.

“If we weren’t crazy we would be doing these at separate times,” Hill told the board.

He said the goal is for both projects to completed this fall. The concrete hardstands will be constructed first, he said.

The second project builds seven new tie-down locations for aircraft ramp parking, which is the number of spaces being displaced with the new hardstand project, Hill said.

It is being paid for with a combination of grants that amount to about another $1 million, including $150,000 in FAA entitlement funding, an approximately $800,000 FAA discretionary grant, and a $50,000 combination of local funding and a Utah Department of Transportation Aeronautics grant.

Six board members voted for and accepted the bid for the contract from Nielson Construction. One member voted “nay.”

The long-term plan is to double the amount of space for aircraft at the airport, the county’s documents state.

Future development of the airport over the next three years will focus on acquisition of approximately 50 acres of nearby Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, according to a draft of the Grand County Strategic Plan for 2019-21.


The board discussed the idea of expanding airline service to airports beyond Denver. The Moab Area Travel Council wants to market to other airports and cities, like Salt Lake City. What’s stopping other airlines from coming to Canyonlands Field Airport?

Hill gave an example. The county airport in Cody, Wyoming, near Yellowstone National Park, has 50,000 enplanements per year.

“They have a seasonal essential air service,” Hill said. That means there are offering federally subsidized flights in the “off season,” when the entrance to Yellowstone is closed. The federal subsidy keeps the cost of plane tickets low, and in Grand County, the subsidy is the reason tickets at Canyonlands Field Airport are about $70 year-round no matter how many tickets are sold.

But, the airport near Yellowstone does not receive a federal subsidy during tourist season. Hill said that the more seats that are sold, the lower the cost. The less seats that are sold, and the higher the price.

“Without essential air service, there’s the potential for higher ticket costs,” Hill said.

He said discussions are taking place on seasonal essential air service in Grand County.

Board member Howard Trenholme, chair of the Moab Area Travel Council Advisory Board said the higher ticket costs during tourist season makes sense “if we’re going to be a tourism economy.”

He added that the community might be a “university economy at some point.”

Hill said the federal subsidy for year-round essential air service at Canyonlands Field Airport isn’t going away “right now.”

“Within a year or two, possibly,” he said.


The airport board had a detailed discussion on the airport’s funding of improvements to business rental spaces inside the terminal.

A business is renting a 200 square-foot space for concessions in the terminal, and the business owner requested the board to pay for a roll-down gate, similar to the gates the car rental businesses have installed.

“The contract states it’s a zero-sum game for the county,” Hill said.

He displayed a lease contract example on the overhead screen in the meeting room. By contract, the landlord (airport) maintains the premise to keep it up-to-date with codes and inspections, but states the lease should be without cost to the county (taxpayers) for the maintenance and operation of the premises.

Hill said, “It’s not a good use of our budget to make it a practice of upgrading for businesses.”

The board agreed not to fund business upgrades in the terminal and denied the request to fund the roll-down gate for the business.


During a recent Federal Aviation Administration inspection, the airport received a write-up regarding wildlife, Hill reported to the board.

The violation was for not being current with its wildlife permits.

Board member Karen Guzman-Newton, who is the Moab City Council representative on the board, asked about what type of wildlife is coming onto the airport’s property.

“Birds,” Hill said. Starlings are the most detrimental to aircraft, he said, and added that there have only been a couple of incidents with the wildlife. “In the four years I’ve been here, we’ve had one bird strike. We’ve had one snake strike as well.”

Guzman-Newton asked what a “strike” means. Hill said it means the aircraft strikes the wildlife, and in the snake’s case, it was run over on the tarmac.

“Plane versus animal,” Hill said, which elicited a laugh from the board members.

He said that when the birds do land at the airport, the staff responds and harasses the birds with “screamers and bangers” in compliance with FAA regulations.

Aircraft parking approved for expansion; Ticket prices could rise with flights to more cities

“Without essential air service, there’s the potential for higher ticket costs.”