Detroit Lakes - Becker County Airport finally cuts the ribbon for runway expansion project completed last summer

Members of the Airport Commission, county and city officials, members of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration officially celebrated the completion of the runway expansion project with a ribbon cutting at the Detroit Lakes - Becker County Airport on Aug. 13, 2021. The new, expanded runway has been open at the airport for more than a year, but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a ribbon cutting celebration with all the stakeholders couldn't be arranged until Aug. 13 because of federal and state employee travel restrictions.

Members of Doc Wething's family cut the ceremonial ribbon signaling the completion of the Detroit Lakes - Becker County Airport runway expansion project on Aug. 13, 2021. Wething, a former 50-year member of the Airport Commission, passed away in 2020. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The ribbon was finally cut at the Detroit Lakes - Becker County Airport celebrating the completion of their runway expansion project on Friday, Aug. 13.

Completed last summer, the airport commission and other stakeholders wanted to wait for federal and state COVID-19 employee travel restrictions to be lifted so members of those agencies could attend the event. The $25 million project moved the runway away from Highway 10 and the railway corridor and added 700 feet to its length while also widening it . Stakeholders in the project said they hoped it would increase traffic at the airport, which can bring additional business opportunities and tourism dollars.

"It's part of the fabric of the community," said Mark Hagen, chair of the Airport Commission. "If we didn't have an airport … the community wouldn't die, but this is an integral part of supporting both corporate and resort business here."

Hagen also highlighted that a plane flew directly to the airport from Boston on Thursday, took on 900 pounds of fuel, and then flew back to Boston. He added that plane couldn't have landed here without the lengthened and expanded runway.


"They were here for a corporate purpose, for a company that has hundreds of employees, so those are real world examples of build it and they'll come," said Hagen. "Or, they would've had to land in Fargo, or Fergus Falls, and we've had many examples of that before and we're just seeing more and more traffic come in here every day."

During his event, Hagen said he would be remiss if he didn't mention Doc Wething, a former airport commissioner and civic official who passed away in 2020, and his work for the betterment of the airport for 50 years . The field at the airport is named Wething Field in his honor.

"He was a person who gave 70 years to aviation and over 50 years with the Airport Commission," said Hagen. "I just want to make sure that the legacy of Doc and his passion for the airport is remembered."

Hagen called Wething a personal friend a remembers he was 12 years old when he got into an airplane with Doc for the first time, which eventually turned into a airplane partnership which lasted 17 years.

Also, during the event, Tim Eggebraaten, who provided musical entertainment before and after the ribbon cutting, performed an airport-themed song in honor of the project's completion.

Minnesota State Representative Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said these are the kinds of projects that can bring additional economic and tourism dollars to the Detroit Lakes and the county.

"These rural city airports play such a huge factor in economic competitiveness and development for rural Minnesota and its communities," said Marquart. "Being able to increase the amount of aircraft that comes in because you've got a longer runway, it's just huge economically so you can compete statewide, but also nationally and globally."


About 90% of the project was funded using federal dollars with another 5% covered by the state and the remaining 5% covered by Detroit Lakes and Becker County.

"It's shocking when people work together you can get things done," said Marquart.

Hagen said the next steps upgrades for the airport are installing 14 new hangar doors, upgrading the fueling system and adding more hangars on the property because they are currently at their capacity.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
What To Read Next
Get Local