Snohomish County’s newest park once family-run Martha Lake airport

  • Fri Sep 17th, 2010 11:26pm
  • News

By Noah Haglund Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — Back when farms dotted much of the land between Everett and Seattle, a family living near Martha Lake took a passion for flying to new heights.

Dad bought a Cessna 172. For a time, the electrician commuted by air to Boeing Field in Seattle to get to his job fixing pinball machines. Soon, he, his wife and three children would transform their Lynnwood-area farm into an airfield. Dozens of people stored their airplanes there. It operated for four decades, even as suburbia crept in on all sides.

“My whole adolescence we were at the airport,” said Jill Herbert, the youngest of the Hauter family children, who are now in their 50s. “I didn’t really like it at the time, but now that I look back on it, I can really appreciate it. It was a very unique kind of a childhood.”

Airport into park

The airport closed for good in the late ’90s. The family sold most of its land to the county, passing up higher offers from developers who could have built more than 100 homes.

Now, crews are readying the land as the county’s newest community park. An opening ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. Oct. 9.

“There are lots of people who have been waiting years and years for this park to open,” county parks director Tom Teigen said.

The nearly finished, 20-acre facility includes a baseball diamond, two soccer fields and the first skate park in the county parks system. There’s also the possibility of an off-leash dog park on undeveloped land north of 146th Street.

Nowadays, skateboarders might be the only airborne objects to be seen at the property. Still, certain clues offer a window into a past when the flat, rectangular expanse hosted a paved 1,700-foot runway.

The airport’s beginnings date back more than a half century, shortly before nearby Lynnwood incorporated as a city. I-5 wouldn’t be built in the county for years.

Family-run airport

The Hauter family moved to the farm in 1953. Five years later, Ed Hauter, Sr., bought his Cessna as the family was cobbling together land parcels for their airport.

A barn their dad built was transformed into offices and classrooms for flight training. The fuel pump was nearby. Hangars could fit 30 aircraft, with tie-down spots for 50 more.

Herbert and her older brother, Ed Hauter, Jr., of Lynnwood, remembered cutting lots of grass with push mowers. They also fueled and washed airplanes. Things were especially busy on nice, weekend days.

“My parents worked very hard, and there were always customers around,” said Herbert, an accountant who now lives in Arizona. “The whole family life revolved around the airport. We didn’t take a lot of vacations because you always had to be running the airport.”

The north end of the runway went to the edge of 146th Street SW. During the 1960s, small housing developments sprang up nearby — one house only about 300 feet from the runway.

“They were concerned about noise, the typical things,” Ed Hauter Jr. said.

The airport didn’t bring in much money and the family battled the assessor over taxes.

A few times, pilots with mechanical problems made emergency landings in Martha Lake to the south, he said. The family lost good friends to airplane crashes.

“That was the toughest thing,” he said.

Tragedy struck the family in the early 1970s when Ed Hauter Sr. was killed in a car crash. About a year earlier, his son had made his first solo flight on his 16th birthday. Ed Hauter, Jr. flew little after his father’s death, but did begin a long career as an aircraft mechanic after high school.

Widow kept it going

After being widowed, Dorothy Hauter could have shut down the airport. Instead, she decided to run it while raising three children. An accountant, she had been doing the books and helping run things on the ground. She got air sickness easily and cared little for flying.

“She worked really hard to maintain my dad’s dreams,” her son said.

Herbert said the social aspect of running the airport probably helped her mom keep going.

“She was a tough lady,” she said.

Family stories illustrate just how tough.

During a windstorm, Herbert remembered her mother almost getting blown away as she helped their dad tie down a plane.

One night, their mother caught some teenagers stealing fuel, marched them to house with a BB gun, and made them lie face down while she called sheriff’s deputies.

The day she died in 1998, she spent several hours talking about flying with a man at the airport. She was 77.

Her children tried to run the airport without her before giving up.

“By that point it was kind of run down, so we spent quite a bit of time cleaning things up and trying to get back on track,” her son said.

In 2000, the Hauter heirs accepted an offer from the county for $3.6 million. The price for 30 acres was about a half-million dollars less than a major developer’s pending offer. Another sister still lives on a portion of the land not sold to the county.

The family is happy the park recognizes a piece of local aviation history. Some day, they’d like to see a plaque or other historical information.

“It’s very important to us,” Ed Hauter Jr. said. “There’s going to be something here to remember our folks by.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Park opening

Snohomish County officials plan to open Martha Lake Airport Community Park during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Oct. 9.

About the new park

Address: 200 146th St. SW, Lynnwood.

History: Family-run airport from the late 1950s to the late 1990s.

Cost: $3.6 million for the land, $3.1 million for park construction.

Features: Baseball diamond, two soccer fields, skate park, playground and public art.

Size: About 30 acres (10 of them undeveloped north of 146th Street)

Future plans: Possible dog park.