Mingo opens air park on reclaimed Alpha strip mine

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. -- The Mingo County Airport Authority celebrated the opening of a 7,000-foot runway and its new Air Transportation Park on a reclaimed mine site Friday.

The air park near Varney stems from a public-private partnership with the authority, Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, Federal Aviation Administration, state Department of Transportation and Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources.

Alpha spent about $1 million constructing the 975-acre site to FAA standards under its post-mine reclamation plan. It gave the land to the county in 2008.

Since then, more than $6 million has been spent on runway, taxiway and apron facilities, plus lighting and fencing.

Officials say it gives private, corporate and industrial aircraft customers a safer, more efficient way to operate.

The air park is near Mingo Central High School, also built on a reclaimed surface mine.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller said the air park will help create jobs and encourage economic development.

"I've spent my entire career in the Senate working on improving West Virginia's air transportation network because I've witnessed firsthand the incredible impact airports can have on local economic development," he said. "More than that, they are a source of pride in the community, and open rural areas up to the world."

Rockefeller helped secure federal grants for the project between 2007 and 2010.