Erie was settled in the 1860’s by a group of missionaries. They named the settlement, which eventually became a town. It was named for Erie, Pennsylvania, the hometown of Reverend Richard J Van Valkenberg, a Methodist minister. Erie became incorporated in 1875. Coal was soon discovered and the town began to thrive. The mining industry thrived and created a good economy for the residents and businesses. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the mining businesses began to close down and the town began to dwindle.
History of Tri County Airport and Erie Air Park
The Tri County Airport was first envisioned by Tom Pierce in the mid to late 70’s as a private-use airport. Tom and his partners owned a tree-trimming business, and the partners became involved, too. With this concept, they acquired as much land as they could, surrounding the area that was envisioned as a runway, annexed into Erie and subdivided into estate-size lots, some of which would about the runway and have runway access. The airport was changed to an open-to-the-public, private airport. Water was available from Erie, but there were no sewer lines or natural gas available. Lots were designed large enough to accommodate septic systems and the design of the homes was required to be solar/electric. Lots were sold and building began about 1978. The runways were developed and paved at about the same time, as well as the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) building and maintenance hangar. An aircraft maintenance firm from Boulder moved into the maintenance hangar and a Piper Training and Service Center was opened. The flight school had several Pipers available for training, including Tomahawks, a Warrior, a Super Cub and Turbo Arrow.
Tom Pierce and a partner moved a Convair 990 into the Air Park, on Airport Road and converted it into a restaurant, leased it out and it became “B J Strawberries at the Convair”. Erie finally began collecting enough sales taxes and building fees to experience a healthy budget. The airport businesses provided the largest sales tax revenues in town.
In March, 1981, Tom Pierce and Gwen Olmsted died in an airplane crash, just south of the airport. The airport, as part of Tom’s estate, was then operated by Tom’s widow, and later, his son.
Erie Air Park Company continued to offer lots for sale, but in the early eighties, interest rates for home buyers skyrocketed to 16-18%. People who had construction loans and were building their homes could not even qualify for permanent loans. Building came to a halt for a couple of years. After the economy began recovering from this problem, Erie announced they were short of water, and issued a moratorium on water permits. So, for about 8 years, development was at nearly a standstill. Several lots sold at reduced rate prices; so, the Air Park developers could keep money coming in to pay for expenses, including property taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. Runway lots were assessed an annual Runway Access Fee to help maintain the runway. Once Erie worked out their water shortage and interest rates returned to a reasonable rate, home building resumed.
Tom Pierce, Jr. finally was able to have the airport designated as a reliever airport, so it qualified for federal funds to re-surface the main runway. But he was unable to pay the additional 20% required for the airport’s share, and ultimately the airport filed bankruptcy. Tom Pierce, Jr. died and Mrs. Pierce moved out of the Air Park.
Erie agreed to buy the airport from the bankruptcy court and entered into an agreement with John and Sue Hurd to lease the whole airport, and operate the FBO and a flight school. In just over 4 years, Hurd’s had paid off the bankruptcy court, through their leasing fee to Erie, and the airport was showing an income.
Their son, Jason Hurd, now runs the maintenance shop, flight school and manages the airport.
Erie Air Park developed into a successful “country-type airport” community and is about 95% built-out.
The HOA Board consists of 6 volunteer homeowners, each serving 2 year terms elected by the membership at each Annual Meeting. For descriptions of each role and the elections process, check out our By-Laws.