From Model Aviation August 1999 – Volume 25 Number 8

In early December 1990 a Tucson city policeman, an avid R/Cer in a moment of inspiration, came up with the idea for a multi- purpose park. His name is Michael Osier (Mike for short). His idea of a model park would be a PERMANENT site to last forever for future modelers as well as the “old guys” without fear of loss to “progress”. This was to combine R/C, both power and gliders, free flight, U-Control, a pond for float planes, model power boats and yachts, R/C.Cars, model rockets, and later Astronomy, along with many other hobby uses too.

Mike enlisted a local architect, also an avid modeler. Robert (Bob) Cousins, with such credits as working on the world-renowned Biosphere project. With his expertise in dealing with government agencies from prior projects, Bob agreed to lead a citizen group to develop this park.

On Dec.19, 1990, the first meeting was held with the leaders of local R/C clubs. It was the start of a long journey with many highs and lows.

Bob drew plans and made a three-dimensional model of the facility he envisioned. The project as planned would need a square mile of land and at an estimated cost exceeding one million dollars.

Early on the Pima County Parks Dept. Made an offer of a large site eight miles east of Tucson. With the offer came a caveat that any friction between existing clubs would void the offer. We made a pledge not to displace any other club. There was possible radio interference with a nearby club. An offer was made for them to be the host club. They declined, and the county withdrew the offer of that site.

Two members of the Old Pueblo Flyers and members of the TIMPA board of directors previously researched land held by the B.L.M (Feds), State of Arizona, and the City of Tucson before finding the site they occupied. They remembered a site the city owned, also eight miles from town. John {Jack} Clarke had met with the city real estate manager several times much earlier, on the O.P.F site. Another meeting led to an offer by the 

city. This offer, too, fell thru when a closely expanding full-scale airport, and commercial development around it made it unsuitable.

Jack discovered the third site. He was retired and restless, driving around looking at every possible location the city owned. Because Tucson is located in the Great Sonoran Desert where water is in short supply, the city had purchased 51 square miles of farmland in the 1970’s for water rights. Part of the agreement included a provision that this land could not ever be used for farming or any commercial use again. It could however be used for recreation. Jack had discovered a gem. A 160 acre retired cotton farm with a brick house and a 40’x100′ steel barn. This parcel had no urban encroachment, power and telephone lines in place, and a small family size well. It seemed too good to be true. Jack went to the city and found that if TIMPA could meet the city’s criteria the land could be leased. The criteria included, State incorporation as a non-profit organization, I.R.S. approval as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, a management plan for use, projected income to sustain operation, and AMA site insurance, the least difficult to obtain. We had another setback – our leader and inspiration Bob Cousins had a heart attack and died when he was only 51. Mike called a board meeting and every club except the O.P.F. leaders dropped out (all expecting the project to fail. The remaining board members affectionately called the “Dummies” by Bob, voted to carry on. Jack was fortunate to have a city councilman for a neighbor. He agreed that the project was worthwhile and agreed to help carry it through the council. In the following four years it was necessary to have an architect, a C.P.A, and a lawyer. We found Jerry Beals, a C.P.A. and modeler. He did the 501(c)(3) work for nearly nothing and he also referred us to a lawyer, Bruce Dusenberry. Bruce did our incorporation quite reasonably, and a U of A. Professor continued with the architectural work. Due to his workload he was forced to quit the project. We then coerced a retired architect and modeler, A.S.(Kip) Merker to look at the project. At first Kip was opposed, but soon he was doing all the necessary plan work and more at no charge.

Money Matters

Our plans for funds included corporate grants, business donations, model auctions, direct mail requests to AMA members in our state, mall shows,” dog and pony shows” if necessary-in short any public place we could ask for donations or hold a raffle. With the new site our capital costs were greatly reduced. We also had to make priorities to complete the most important things one at a time as the funds allowed. We soon found that large corporations with grant programs did not rate model parks high in the community interest. Tucson City Parks considered the project worthy, but not in their long-range plans. That left it up to us to reach deep into our pockets many times to keep the project afloat. Having our city requirements in order, we met with the city council members for the first time. In June 1995 at a council meeting we were awarded a $1.00 a year lease Were we excited? Not for long. Days later we were informed the lease had been changed and now required thousands of dollars a year in rent. Panicked, we made calls to councilmen, and we were able to get a 20-year lease at $20.00 a year.

Our project was just beginning. While the city owned the land, the county controlled it. Eighteen separate departments had to approve everything we wanted to do on the site. All required a complete set of blueprints. Some departments required things that other departments prohibited, but finally on July 1,1995, we had the lease, the keys, and the permits. Joy again.

The most important thing we did before we started any building was to take decibel readings at all edges of the property. Even though or nearest neighbor was a 1/2 mile away, we used the loudest un-muffled plane we could find for tests. We recorded these readings of 50db at the property’s boundary for future reference. Sure enough long after we paved the runway, we had a noise complaint, even though the person lived 1/2 a mile away. We successfully defeated this complaint because we had the data available.

Clubs take notice! Do your homework and be prepared to have complaints.

Now that the site was a reality our first order of business was to clean the grounds, house, and hanger, as they were sadly neglected. We found out that the city was close to tearing down the house and barn (renamed the hanger) and letting the property return to its natural state. What we have done is restore the house including a new roof, a brick floor on the rear porch, tile floors inside, a new heat pump for heating and cooling, painting and restoring the inside walls, replace broken windows, rewire with 200 amp electrical service underground. Most of this was with donated paint and materials and labor, some of it professional. Outside we installed a new water pump in the well, we painted the hanger, coated the roof, painted a one car garage, most of it with material donated including 

equipment from rental tool companies. We moved a 10,000-gallon water tank from another part of the 160 acres.

We graded a 1600 ft runway. Then we decided we made a mistake and moved it 500ft further from the house. and graded a road to it including, parking areas. We purchased an 84×16 ft Ramada, erecting it without professional help. We poured the concrete floor with donated redi-mix. With partially donated and some partially purchased at dealer cost pipe and fittings, water was piped to the runway, and an irrigation system installed to water the grass and landscaping was added. Telephone service was professionally installed with donated wire and labor. This left one thing that we wanted above all else, a paved runway and pit area. An appointment made with a large construction company was fruitful. Sundt Co. agreed to provide equipment and labor at no charge to construct 750×50 ft runway 160×60 ft pilot stations and pit area and a 40×20 engine test area. Calmat asphalt donated all the asphalt. Had we not been so fortunate to receive these generous donations we would have had to borrow money and divide the payments among our small membership.

Our small group never gave up, and we donated much of the money. Many, many hours of labor were and still are donated to TIMPA.The Latest new purchases and donations are a large tractor and mower. Volunteers do all the mowing right now.

Many thanks are doing to the AMA for the donation of $9,900 for site improvement. The grant was spent to install safety fence, runway barriers for pilot stations and to gravel the driveway from the road to the flying area and the parking lot. This has made them dust free.

We have provided for all AMA members, both local or visitors to Tucson, a beautiful place to enjoy our hobby. We hope sometime in the future a park district will take over management of this park.

Our future looks good with the availability of the remaining section of land, 480 acres for expansion. New acquisitions include 3 sections or 1920 acres, 3 square miles for exclusive use of free flight, which are now under lease and located a short distance away.

Model rocketry is a new activity at the original site. An Astronomy club has plans to build a 20×30 ft observatory with a 16-inch telescope on the spectator side of the runway (a non interfering activity encouraged by us).

Our long-range plans include the pond for R/C boats and float planes to use.

While it has taken several years, it has been a labor of love, and we never gave up. We are indebted to this small group with little or no experience in these matters, for taking us from rags to riches.