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Model aircraft club seeking a new home

The recent sale of Crook County land to Apple, has displaced the local club

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - When Crook County sold a portion of its land to Apple, it displaced the Crook County Radio Control Club who used the land (shown here) to fly their model aircraft.

When news first broke that Crook County sold $5.6 million worth of land to Apple, seemingly all questions and discussion revolved around an upcoming data center.
   What few people probably knew was the sale resulted in a long-standing local model airplane club losing its land as well.
   Since 1985, the Crook County Radio Control Club has used a portion of property off of Baldwin Road to fly its airplanes. The land provided about 100 acres of unobstructed airspace as well as a 300-foot long runway.
   According to club president Al Hensen, Crook County officials informed the club of their intent to sell the land last fall — well before the news of the sale was made public.
   “So they gave us 60 days to get out of there,” he said.
   Now the club lacks a home, and the search for a suitable location has come up fruitless thus far.
   “We’re dead in the water right now,” Hensen said.
   Crook County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren has joined the club in looking for a new place to fly. Depending on who you ask, they have checked out six to eight places, none of which meets all the criteria needed.
   “We would really like to have them away from trees, away from houses, and away from power lines,” Fahlgren said, “and we need to keep the animals out it as best we can.”
   Hensen agrees, and such conditions rule out most parks and other publicly utilized spaces.
   “We frankly are flying model airplanes that could hurt somebody if they hit them,” he said.
   Fahlgren said he considered the Prineville Airport as well, but again, the property presented issues. First of all, the model planes could potentially disrupt the flight path of a full-sized aircraft. In addition, Fahlgren could not find a location on the property where development would never occur.
   Prior to the County land sale, the Radio Control Club used the property free of charge, while paying for a $1 million liability policy. Hensen said the club is looking for a similar arrangement where they use land with the owner’s permission as opposed to buying property.
   Recognizing that the County has displaced the club, Fahlgren wants to help replace what they have lost. Furthermore, he doesn’t want to leave them in a situation where they might go through this again in the near future.
   “We would like a little bit of a long-term situation,” he said.
   Fahlgren pointed out that other communities like Redmond and Bend provide a space for model airplane clubs, and they tend to draw spectator-attended events. Given the right location, he could see something similar for Prineville.
   “They would be an economic driver and we would like to have it in a place where people can see the location,” he said.
   In spite of the current situation and its uncertainty, Hensen does not harbor any animosity about the sale of the land, and the manner in which the County dealt with the club.
   “There was nothing much you could do about it,” he said. “It was County property and they sold it — that’s all.”