History of Archuleta County’s Steven’s Field
|History of Archuleta County’s Steven’s Field
Gayle Broadbent |
Earliest memories of aviation in Archuleta County recall the first runway as just a dirt strip out on Sunetha Flats. Imagine the meadow area just across Highway 160 from Pagosa Lodge, and you are in the right vicinity.
“Stevens Field (Archuleta County Airport) is a full service general aviation facility that supports charter and private aircraft. The fixed-base operation terminal is located approximately 3 miles northwest of town near the end of Cloman Road. For a list of services at Stevens Field call 970-731-2127 or visit Avjet Corporation on line at avjet-colorado.com”
In those days cattle and sheep roamed the acres that are now Stevens Field, Archuleta County Airport. Rancher Johnny Stevens donated 40 acres of his land and Agapita Gomez donated a smaller parcel for the original location in 1961. Thus began the process of making air transportation available to citizens of Archuleta County.
Steven’s Field becomes the center of firefighting activity in Pagosa Springs.
The gravel strip that was first built was a community project. Those who can actually remember those days say, They just all got together and did the work. It is known that Vic Poma and other local businessmen brought in their own equipment, including tractors, bulldozers and the occasional wheelbarrow, furnished the rock and gravel, and built the first runway approximately where a part of Condor Road now exists.
Glenn Bergmann, in his article about the airport, “The Ghosts of Runways Past,” notes that: “After the County became involved, the first paved runway was constructed. Road and Bridge Department no longer has any records of activities in that period. It appears as if the runway was graded and paved much the same as a county road. The runway was located where the current taxiway accesses private hangars on the town side of the airport and is still visible where it continued beyond.”
Others remember that if you landed at Steven’s Field and needed fuel, you could call Vic Poma at the Texaco Station, and he would come out to fuel your airplane. He and Farris Breedlove were often around to give rides to aspiring aviators or to fly someone who had an emergency travel need. There were three hangars on the west side of the airport, as well as a hangar and small apartment belonging to M.O. Smith, another legendary Pagosa Springs aviator.
In 1975 Pagosa Springs Aviation began offering charter service, flight instruction and fuel sales. Initially the business operated from M.O. Smith’s building.Then the county built a Terminal Building and leased it to Pagosa Springs Aviation, which became the first Fixed Base Operator (FBO) for Steven’s field in 1976. Along with offering charter flights and instruction, the manager would usually lend his truck to a visiting pilot who needed to go into town, while his wife fueled the visitor’s plane. Life was less complicated in those days.
The original paved runway, aligned to compass headings of 040/220 was re-aligned to compass headings of 010/190 in the early 80s, the same alignment the new runway uses today. Nick Nichols purchased the property owned by M.O. Smith and built the large hangar and office building known as Nick’s Hangar in 1982. The building was later given to the county by his estate. It has been home to Fixed Base Operators FlightCraft Aviation, Flight Crafton and WindDancer Aviation. Avjet Corporation, a nationally known aviation business is the current FBO.
When the KMAX landed at Steven’s Field people realized this was a fire fighting flying machine of the highest order. When those twin blades hovered overhead the sky shook!
As the population of Archuleta County grew, the demands for aviation services increased. Air ambulance services were often required. Fire-fighting crews arrived and camped at Stevens Field when the need arose. More people required convenient, fast transportation for their businesses and recreation. Archuleta County needed to be accessible for a wide range of people and services.
When a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration became available to build a first class aviation facility for the citizens of Archuleta County it seemed a wise choice to accept it and proceed.
The original county Terminal Building disappeared in the fall of 2005 to make way for the improved runway. The first paved runway is now a taxiway, home to 42 hangars that house aircraft belonging to current business people and aviators. The public will now access the airport by traveling on Cloman Blvd. to the midfield facility, now the new home to Avjet Corporation. There are still a few nails to be hammered, some asphalt to be laid, but Stevens Field, once a pasture for Johnny Steven’s cattle, is a viable part of our growing economy.
Two years ago the Airport Advisory Commission produced an Economic Impact
Study showing the financial impact the Airport has on the County
and the Town of Pagosa Springs. This study was presented to
governing bodies of both Archuleta and Pagosa Springs, as well as
to more than 20 clubs and organizations in this area. Although it is primarily
financial, it also documents the social services that are provided via the
Airport such as air ambulance availability, staging for wildland fire fighting
(which we have done in two of the last three years), charter flights,
staging/storage for Search and Rescue and housing the Emergency Op Center
for the County.