The end of the runway leads to a dangerous rise in the terrain. The hill (gob pile) pictured here once had large trees setting on top of it. The tractors off to the right give viewers a sense of how large the hill is.
The airport authority of the Clay County Airport has joined with Sycamore Trails to make the landing and taking off of aircraft at the airport safer and easier.
The property to the direct west of the runway is not owned by the airport. That property had tall trees on top of a hill, actually a gob pile, that created an obstacle that made landings and take offs difficult.
"One plane has actually been totaled and there have been many accidents, because there is not enough usable runway," said Mike Knust, member of the airport authority. "It's no wonder no one has been killed."
The runway is approximately 2,941 feet, but the hill on the west side made the runway lose valuable length.
An airplane cannot plunge vertical in either direction, so it has to gradually gain altitude when taking off and gradually lose altitude when landing. If trees and a hill block the gliding path, the airplane must start the take off before the runway ends or start landing after the runway starts. This can make an airplane run out of runway faster and potentially cause an accident.
A gob pile is the leftover dirt and rock from a coal mining site. According to Mike Wilkinson of Sycamore Trails, RC&D Division, the pond that is directly to the west the airport is an abandoned coal mine.
With permission of the property owner, a major a destruction project began in June to remove the trees and gob pile. Currently, the trees have been removed and the gob pile is in the process of being flattened.
The project is funded by Sycamore Trails, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Reclamation and the Clay County Airport Authority. Sycamore Trails is working in partnership with these departments to complete the project. Wilkinson said, "Sycamore overseas projects, but money comes from the other three departments."
The RC&D division of Sycamore Trails deals specifically with abandoned mine sites. Wilkinson would like the community to know that, "We help land owners or anyone with abandoned mines and the characteristics of them like acidic water or land, gob piles, poor drainage and poor vegetation." The company makes the either highly acidic or lowly acidic land where it can grow vegetation again.
According to Wilkinson, the old mines didn't have rules, regulations or laws. When the mine was stripped out, the miners packed up and left the mine as it was. Now there's provisions to follow.
Wilkinson said his company works on many sites within the nine counties (Vigo, Clay, Sullivan, Vermillion, Parke, Montgomery, Putnam, Owen and Fountain) that they deal with.