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Feathers Ruffled as Hobbyists Enjoy Wind Beneath Their Wings : Oak Park: Longtime model glider fliers disturb and in some cases alarm residents of new development around ridge called Kanan Hill.

October 15, 1994|GREG RIPPEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nancy Tohl was squinting toward the weedy ridge when the large model glider plane burst back into view and sent its shadow across her concrete driveway.

"It's a very nice way to enjoy life," the Oak Park resident said. "I can't see why anyone wouldn't like them up there."

Far up the ridge, Ken Kegler stood against the morning sun and used his remote control to ease his glider into the thermals that had swept off the distant Oxnard coast and risen from the tile roofs below.

"Sometimes (people) will come up here and watch us and enjoy our silent flight," said Kegler, 53, of Thousand Oaks.

Down below, Cleavant Derrick gazed up from his new house on Burano Court and watched a vulture drift toward the soundless glider. Their shadows mingled as they moved over the weeds. And bird and plane, as they receded into the blue, soon became indistinguishable in the glaring sunlight.

"What I like about this neighborhood is things like this," the actor from New York said.

But to some residents in the new Monte Carlo housing tract that is being erected off Kanan Road and Hawthorne Drive, all is not necessarily well.

As so often happens when housing developments penetrate deeper into previously unoccupied areas--whether beach, farmland or open space--adjustments must be made.

Glider fliers suddenly find themselves fending off residents' complaints of increased auto traffic and the annoyance, if not danger, of aircraft crashing into their neighborhood.

Kanan Hill, as the ridge is known, has been luring model glider lovers for years, because its shape and location make it one of the best launching sites in east Ventura County. Nobody really minded the small squadrons of gliders that took flight from its brushy spine, either, until now.

"They're saying they've been coming here for 10 to 15 years," said Brenda Saturday, 38, a psychotherapist who moved into her house on Burano Court four months ago. "But there's a development here now."

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While appreciative of the aerobatics of the gliders, Saturday and other residents are rankled by enthusiasts who park near a public-access entry to the ridge at the end of Burano Court.

The entry is for hikers, mountain bicyclists, glider fliers and others who frequent the 317 acres of open space above the Monte Carlo tract, said Ranger Pat Lyman of the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.

Whenever the wind is right--weekend or workday--small groups of glider fliers park near the cul-de-sac to climb the railroad ties that lead to a trail up the ridge.

The public stairs, which cut between two homes, are not too far from another entry off Kanan, on the other side of a slump-stone wall that borders the tract. The entries are equidistant from the launch area. And some homeowners say glider enthusiasts should use the Kanan entrance.

"I think it's an issue of who has a lesser burden," said Saturday's husband, Terry, 37, a law clerk at a Los Angeles firm that defends aviation firms. "They can park on Kanan. (But) they put up the response that they've always done this."

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Dane Vannett, 28, a Moorpark resident who is a friend of Kegler and a fellow glider lover, said he and others try to accommodate neighborhood concerns by parking elsewhere, farther from the cul-de-sac next to the stairs.

"We go out of our way to be nice," said Kegler, an aircraft instruments salesman. "We invite and encourage kids in the area to come up and watch us. . . . It beats the hell out of taking drugs and all the other things kids could do."

Tohl, who lives on another cul-de-sac at the end of adjoining Carmento Drive, agreed.

She said of her 13-year-old son: "I'd rather have him doing something productive in life and enjoy flying . . . instead of some other things kids do, like drugs."

But it is their children's welfare that has some other residents concerned.

A growing neighborhood in more ways than one, the dozen houses huddled under the ridge can dispatch as many as 17 children into the street. And with four pregnant women, according to Brenda Saturday's count, more are coming.

"You buy into a cul-de-sac to cut down on traffic. You pay a premium for it, too," said Larry Hawkinson, 43, who lives on Burano Court. "And now you get this."

Another concern is gliders crashing in the neighborhood, as one did in May, Nancy Menia said.

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Debbie Maloney, 31, a neighbor, said a glider with a three-pound weight on its nose crashed into the roof of an unoccupied house at the end of Burano Court, forcing the builder to replace about 15 tiles.

"So you could imagine what would happen if it had hit a child," said Menia, 38, who lives next to the house that was hit.

Acknowledging the problem, Kegler said he and others have elected to fly smaller gliders on tighter routes so they do not pass over the homes. His gliders--replicas of World War II warplanes--have a wing span of about four feet.

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