It is springtime – finally! This is a time when local governments or others may request to use apparent “unused or vacant” airport land to support recreation as bike paths, athletic fields, parkland or wildlife refuge. These types of uses are classified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as “Section 4(f)”. Prior to considering requests to allow airport land to be used for these purposes, Airport Owners/Managers and Commissions should consider Section 4(f). Under that section, an airport may become solely responsible to pay for unforeseen mitigation or enhancement expenses.

The 4(f) designation is shorthand for regulations [Section 4(f)] that fall under the U.S. DOT Act of 1966. When considering an airport project, the effect of a 4(f) resource should be taken into account. This means the airport must try to avoid it, minimize impacts, mitigate impact or enhance the resource. Chapter 7-3(e) of the Airports Desk Reference discusses temporary leases or agreements that may permit the use of airport property for Section 4(f) purposes.

Airport Owners/Managers and Commissions should also note that the potential mitigation or enhancement costs incurred by the airport may not be eligible for reimbursement by FAA.

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