Disc golf course takes off

Model plane runway stalls; city to help find another location

Posted: Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Juneau model airplane enthusiasts won't get a runway at Amalga Meadows, but will receive help from the city to find a place to fly.

The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee on Tuesday unanimously turned down a proposal from the Gastineau Aeromodelers Society to install a 70-by-400-foot grass runway at Amalga Meadows for model planes. Instead, the panel directed Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer to work with the group and other landowners to find a permanent place to fly.

But the panel unanimously granted a request to put a nine-hole flying disc golf course at Dimond Park until a proposed high school is built on the site. The project will require minimal tree trimming and clearing, Kiefer said. To play, people throw Frisbee-type discs at above-ground baskets called pole holes.

Ray Rusaw, field coordinator for the aeromodelers society, said he was "a little bit disappointed" in the Amalga Meadows decision, but happy the group got as much cooperation as it did. Flat land is at a premium in Juneau, he said.

"I'm not going to quit on this idea. It's something I believe in doing. It's family-oriented recreation," he said.

Amalga Meadows is near mile 25 of Glacier Highway and is designated as a semi-primitive recreation area and a "natural area" park. In the long term, the city hopes to upgrade trails in the area, add picnic shelters and install a platform for stargazing, Kiefer said.

Committee member Lynn Bartlett said the aeromodelers' request wasn't compatible with Amalga Meadows.

"I support the club, but I cannot support the location," she said. "It's going to take a lot of work with a lot of people to make this go. There's a way to make it happen, but Amalga is just not the place."

Over the years, group members have flown at Dredge Lakes, Lemon Creek, Dimond Park and the current Juneau Community Garden site. Currently, they fly at the Mendenhall Glacier parking lot during the winter and at Eagle Beach and Sheep Creek in the summer.

Ray Lemons said 60 to 80 people in Juneau fly model planes, and they need lots of space away from other people.

"We've literally been chased out of everywhere," he said. "I don't drink, I don't smoke and I don't run around with wild women. My only hobby is my model airplanes."

Other public comment focused on noise, safety and wildlife. Karla Hart said she has been going to Amalga Meadows for the past 40 years to hike, cross-country ski and snowshoe.

"Part of the reason why it's so special is because it's one of the few areas left in town that's still pretty darn quiet," she said.

Kiefer said she will work with the U.S. Forest Service, the state, other landowners and the aeromodelers to find a permanent home for the group. Rusaw said Crystal Lake or Eaglecrest Ski Area may be possibilities.

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