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Panel's Vote Has Hobbyists Flying High

Land use: Celebration follows recommendation against creating a golf course at a model airstrip. Supervisors will review matter next month.


FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Spirits soared among model airplane enthusiasts Thursday as they celebrated a key first victory in their fight to save an airstrip for hobbyists at Mile Square Regional Park.

The county's Harbors, Beaches and Parks Commission recommended Wednesday that the unique 188-acre hobby area be preserved. The commission faced a throng of hobbyists who turned out to protest a proposal to build a third golf course at the park. Commissioners voted 5-1, with one official absent, to oppose two proposals by golf course companies.

"This was a real accomplishment," said Bob Richards, who is leading the fight to save the concrete landing strip. "There has been quite a jubilant reaction."

County Parks Commissioner Shirley S. Dettloff said she voted against the measure because she wanted more information about the model park and other uses before scrapping the golf course plans.

"I think the hobbyists have made some very good points," she said. "It's our responsibility to give the board our recommendation but that recommendation should be based on our own research, our own analysis."

Though pleased with the latest development, the model plane pilots expect some turbulence. County supervisors already have approved a golf course as an appropriate use for the site and could overturn the commission recommendation when they review the matter in December.

"It's not a touchdown, but it's a damn good blocking job," said Richard Churchill, 68, a hobbyist from Costa Mesa.

Model lovers are organizing in hopes of winning over the supervisors. Their Save Mile Square Park Committee meets regularly and provides the latest updates on the Internet and on printed fliers. Word-of-mouth support is strong in local hobby shops.

The hobbyists, who have used the airstrip for 46 years, see little need for another golf course.

There are 58 golf courses in Orange County and only three public model airplane strips in Southern California. The Fountain Valley site is better and larger than similar facilities in Whittier and near Burbank, users say. Other spots, such as Bluff Park in Long Beach, allow quieter, battery-powered gliders but not the motorized aircraft favored by the Fountain Valley set.

Rich Adler, chief of revenue development for the county Harbors, Beaches and Parks Commission, said his department brought the golf course proposals before officials as a way to help it recoup the county's $33-million investment in Mile Square Park.

His office will take into account the recommendation before making a suggestion to the supervisors.

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