The group that calls itself “the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States” has joined the opposition to planned massive hangar construction at Hanscom Field.
The Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club on Sunday hosted a trail walk in Hartwell Town Forest, which it promoted as an opportunity to learn about “the proposal for a private jet expansion at the adjacent Hanscom airfield.”
In its announcement of the event to members, the Sierra Club said, “This development will result in irreversible environmental damage in the form of environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions from private planes.”
Other than a few members of the Bedford Chapter of Mothers Out Front, the three dozen participants gathered alongside the community gardens off Hartwell Road Sunday were not only from contiguous towns but also from Greater Boston and central Massachusetts. Aidan Ankarberg came from Rochester, NH, where he is a Republican state representative. A few mentioned personal affiliations with groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Our Revolution.
Several people identified themselves as supporters of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign. One explained, “We care deeply about the environment.”
A proposal to build 27 hangars on the North Airfield section near Hartwell Road is pending as developers prepare a state-required environmental impact report. The hangar expansion also includes refurbishing the adjacent Navy Hangar. Total added aircraft storage space would be almost 500,000 square feet.
The plan has engendered organized opposition focusing on the likelihood of increased private jet activity, and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. A coalition of dozens of environmental and social justice organizations has formed and calls itself Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom and Everywhere.
Molly Haskell, chair of the town’s Arbor Resource Committee and a member of Mothers Out Front, briefed the Sierra Club group on the hangar project and answered questions.
The four towns contiguous to the airport all have “expensive plans in place to get to net zero by 2030,” she said, adding that the expanded hangar space has the potential to exponentially offset those reduced emissions, “a huge step in the wrong direction.” She said that the expansion is “catering to an extremely wealthy clientele.”
Celeste Venolia, forest protection coordinator for the Sierra Club’s state chapter, emphasized that the site of the hangar project is not the Town Forest or the contiguous Jordan Conservation Land, though both would be affected. She said the area reflects “multiple intersecting environment stories:” the forest and the flight path.
Tyler Aprati, the volunteer who led the trail walk, labeled the Jordan area as “disturbed forest” because periodically trees are removed that exceed the federal height limits along a flight path.
After the briefing, the group headed to the forest trail, through the community garden plots, several of which were still festooned with flowers on the threshold of November. Haskell said the 45-minute trek was intended as “a walk with instruction and discussion.”
There was a stop near some test wells that are part of the long-standing federal cleanup of contaminants identified near the Hanscom runways.
Back at the starting point, Venolia outlined “action points,” such as adding groups to the coalition; supporting local resolutions opposing the project; and signing petitions addressed to the governor, who is the appointing authority for the Massachusetts Port Authority Board of Directors.
Some of the participants remained for a more adventurous walk through part of the Jordan Conservation Area that Venolia said would involve some “bushwhacking.” The Sierra Club promoted this segment, saying, “Walking through George Jordan is only recommended for those with long pants as poison ivy thrives in more disturbed forests and shoes that can walk through shallow water as we have had a wet summer.”