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What Remains? Issaquah after the Skyport

"I'm sitting on the pea gravel at the Skyport right now. It is several days after the election. My heart is broken, a part of it will never heal from the pain and loss I am feeling. Until now you were never ordinary.
Issaquah had a skypark. I remember each time I'd drive up I90 my eyes would behold magical moments as parachutes burst open and people skydanced and swirled to the ground. It was poetry in motion, it was aliveness, it was freedom and joy and teamwork. And now there will be nothing."

-Lee Will, in a letter to the Issaquah Press called "Until now..." Published on June 3, 1987.

A glider trails behind a towplane. This undated photograph is in Linn Emrich's scrapbook.

One Final Jump

The last parachute jumps at the Skyport were on July 8, 1987. Parachute Center operator Jamey Woodward piloted the plane that allowed two longtime employees to make the final jump before the 8:00 AM eviction deadline. After that, they flew the last planes off of the field and the developers marked the runway with two white Xs, rendering it officially and permanently closed.

A newspaper clipping from Journal-American which gives insight into who the Skyport could benefit: Bill Baker was a paraplegic who had enjoyed skydiving with his son prior to its closure. This jump was made a couple of days before the actual last day, which was done by employees.

Linn Emrich had begun the process of moving out of the Skyport in June due to legal deadlines, so he was not present on July 8th. By the following year, he had moved his operations to Camano Island, about 63 miles (101 kilometers) northwest of Seattle. One year before he passed away in 2002, he generously donated his personal Skyport scrapbook to the Issaquah History Museums.

Woodward went on to run a parachute center in the nearby town of Snohomish.

Born To Fly

For some community members, the loss of the Skyport is like a scar. It signified the end of an era, perhaps most significantly the era of Issaquah as a small town. Until then, Issaquah had been directly associated with the image of glider planes and parachutes; without it, the town's visual identity was ruptured. For pilots and parachutists who used the Skyport, it was devastating partly because airfields like that are extremely rare. Others believe its closure was inevitable and enjoy the convenience of Pickering Place combined with jobs created.

The Skyport is gone, but flight has found a way to remain in town: "that Issaquah feeling" still lives in the sky with the paragliders on Poo Poo Point, who now represent a piece of Issaquah's visual identity.

Photograph courtesy of Mountains To Sound Greenway Trust.

A Skyport membership certificate signed by Linn Emrich.

Remembering the Issaquah Skyport: Conclusion

Walking around the Costco parking lot, and especially walking inside the building with its rows of neat shelves, it is difficult to imagine the life it had 30 years ago: planes rolling by on the grass, parachutes landing in a silky heap on the ground after someone completed their first jump, crowds of people sitting on a blanket watching it all unfold, contemplating the age-old desire to fly. Still, the Skyport has not been completely erased. The history is underneath the concrete—we just can't see it anymore. But maybe the sky holds even more memories than the ground ever could, and all we need to do to remember the Skyport is simply look up.

Captions available in the video by clicking "CC" in the bottom right corner. This video was made using the voices of four community members who generously agreed to discuss their memories of the Skyport with us.

This virtual exhibit was made possible by a grant from the City of Isaquah's Arts Commission.