Airport of the Month: Staples
Staples is a railroad town. It's named after a lumber family and that's how it got started. But, by 1900 railroading was the mainstay of the local economy. Staples had a round house, locomotive maintenance shop, and an extensive marshalling yard. The round house and maintenance are gone, but the yard is still a major facility. There's so much rail traffic that the city recently built an $11.5 million overpass to connect the parts of town on either side of the tracks.
Folks still can and do ride the train to Staples. It's a stop for Amtrak's "Empire Builder". The old depot has been restored and now houses the Amtrak station, plus the Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce. Or, you can fly to Staples. Trains are fun, but when time is money flying is the way to go. The local economy is now well diversified and the city has made the airport a key part of the infrastructure that supports the community.
Conveniently located just northwest of town, Staples Municipal Airport is home to 20 aircraft and supports 10,000 operations each year. At 3300 foot long, Runway 14/32 can handle most general aviation aircraft. For those flying with 21st century equipment there's GPS/RNAV approaches including a LPV approach to Runway 32. For pilots still using 20th century stuff, there's a Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) on the airport. Other amenities include Runway End Identifier Lights (REILs), Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI) and an automated weather station (AWOS). A full parallel taxiway is in the works. Once on the ground, the newly expanded apron has plenty of parking spaces and the Arrival-Departure Building was remodeled in 2010. There's a courtesy car to get you to town and self service aviation gas to get you to your next destination.
Staples contributed some interesting people to the human race, including novelists Jon Hassler and LaVyrle Spencer, both of whom attended Staples High School. Minnesota Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer also went to Staples High School where the speech classes gave him the idea he could make money with his voice. Before making it to the big time on Fox Sports, Bremer was a night DJ for a radio station in St. Cloud and known as "Duke in the Dark".
Aviator Dennis Thompson grew up in Staples, but he's better know in Alaska and Africa. During the Depression, a friend's father bought Dennis and his buddy an airplane ride for $1 each and he "... knew then that I wanted to learn to fly". During World War II Lt. Thompson flew 30 combat missions in B-24s and B-17s, including support for the "D-Day" invasion. After the war he came back to Staples and did some trapping while he figured out his next move, which was going to Alaska. He was a guide and outfitter for 60 years in Seward, and later in the Central Africa Republic. Of course those businesses included using airplanes to transport customers. Dennis was partners with race car driver Carroll Shelby in the African venture.
Being "up north" a lot of the fun things to do around Staples are outdoors. Lakes, parks, and trails offer some excellent recreation. The city hosts a couple festivals including "Railroad Days" (of course), plus there are lots of opportunities for businesses. If you want to have a nice scenic trip, take the train to Staples. It'll be fun, but you'll have to start from some place on the train's route. Otherwise use the Staples Municipal Airport and you can come from or go to just about any place in North America. Anyway Amtrak doesn't have a courtesy car.