JACKSON (WNE) — The Jackson Hole Airport Board voted 4-1 Monday to spend roughly $50 million on a controversial new building that will house a terminal for private aviation and new offices for airport staff.
Board members also elected to explore increasing fees on private jets to offset any impacts the new terminal may have on traffic in and out of the airport, even though most board members argued that the new terminal would essentially be a lobby and not increase the number of flights.
But the airport’s landlord, Grand Teton National Park, made clear Monday that it’s not 100% on board with where the airport is headed. Ahead of the vote, Superintendent Chip Jenkins praised the airport for its sustainability initiatives and said he understood the need to replace infrastructure.
Jenkins, however, suggested that new construction at Jackson Hole Airport — the only American airport located inside a national park — could mar the park’s “extraordinary with the merely ordinary.”
“It is not entirely clear to us at Grand Teton National Park what the vision is for the airport over the next 10 or 20 years,” Jenkins said. “We’re not entirely sure where we are trying to go, and how the capital improvements that might be made by the board will implement that vision, and what the consequences of that vision may be on the park and how we can work together to mitigate those impacts.”
Monday’s decision capped a months-long debate about whether Jackson Hole Airport is doing too much for private aviation, a hot-button issue in a community where millionaires and billionaires often reach their second homes on private jets, and in a valley that’s becoming less and less affordable for the middle class.