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To keep planes safe, golf course to cut trees near HIA

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These views of Middletown from the Sunset Golf Course were taken before and after a tree cutting project at the facility.
These views of Middletown from the Sunset Golf Course were taken before and after a tree cutting project at the facility. - (Photo / )

It's better for aviation, and it's better for golf.

Tree removal at a Dauphin County golf course will reduce a potential danger for planes approaching and departing the nearby Harrisburg International Airport, officials said, while improving the landscape for players on the ground.

J&L Logging, of Lancaster, will begin work this winter at Sunset Golf Course in Londonderry Township, a project that will transform the first nine holes into what is known as a "links-style" course.

The effort will make the landscape more like the earliest golf courses in coastal Scotland, where the terrain was marked by trees and grasses but hardly any trees.

More importantly, perhaps, it will improve aviation safety as HIA embarks on a multi-year rehabilitation of its runway 13-31.

HIA Executive Director Timothy J. Edwards said most of the trees located along the first nine holes have grown tall enough to pose safety hazards for air traffic.

J&L Logging will conduct the work for Londonderry Township, which owns the golf course. The township will earn revenue from hardwood and pulpwood harvesting, as well as from the harvesting of infected white ash trees, officials said.

The airport, meanwhile, will save more than $100,000 from the arrangement. Absent the arrangement, it would have had to pay a contractor to remove and dispose of the trees, said Scott Miller, HIA's deputy director for business development and strategic marketing.

Following tree removal, the course will undergo restoration work including new grassy areas, shrubbery, and an improved irrigation system, set for completion early in the second quarter, depending on the weather.

When golfers visit Sunset later this year, they will have the opportunity to play two different styles of courses across its 18 holes.

With the trees on the front nine gone, native grasses and native plantings will surround the fairways and greens, along with new fairway sand bunkers. The back nine will remain a traditional tree-lined course.

"We feel the concept of getting to play a traditional course along with a links style on the same property is pretty special," course superintendent Sam Risteff said.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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