The Navy and Escambia County, Fla., have agreed on a land swap that will allow Naval Air Station Whiting Field to replace an outlying landing field (OLF) threatened by encroachment and the county to turn the airfield into a commerce park.
Escambia County commissioners approved the exchange last week, but the deal won’t become official until the county finishes improving the 640-acre site it purchased in neighboring Santa Rosa County, where the installation is located. To get the new OLF ready for Navy helicopter training, the county will plant grass, and install eight landing strips, two fuel pits, 16 gravel landing spots and 12 nighttime landing spots, reported the Pensacola News Journal.
The county purchased the replacement airfield site in 2013 in anticipation of the swap, but the deal had been under discussion for decades. The county is paying more than $400,000 in administrative fees and environmental surveys.
Escambia commissioners hope to complete the exchange by the fall of 2017. Officials believe the existing OLF, which is located in Escambia County, is ripe for commercial development as it is close to Interstate 10.
“I think it’s a big, big win for both of us,” Escambia Commissioner Wilson Robertson told the paper.