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Enoch • Some amenities you expect to see at a Bureau of Land Management recreation area: campsites and trails, restrooms and picnic tables. But a landing strip?
At the BLM's Three Peaks Recreation Area near Cedar City, radio-control plane enthusiasts can take off and land their scaled-down Spitfires and Piper Cubs at a newly dedicated 500-foot-by-60-foot paved airstrip.
"This field is probably the best I've seen," said Arnold Vitarbo, who lives in Enoch. "It is close to my home and is maintained well."
Vitarbo knows a thing or two about model ports. A U.S. Air Force veteran now in his 70s, he has been building and flying radio-control planes for more than 40 years in spots across the globe.
So what makes this field stand out?
Well, it's at least a mile from the nearest house yet it's close to a sizable city. There are no electric or phone wires to worry about. It has ample parking, and the strip itself is clean and smooth.
"It's an actual runway," Vitarbo said. "The engines don't get dirty. The planes don't get dirty."
Vitarbo belongs to the 30-member Cedar City Radio Control Club, which kicked in $8,000 for the model port a joint project with the BLM and Iron County.
"This fits within the BLM master plan for out there," said fellow club member Mike Berg. "It was a topic of conversation for six or seven years. The neat thing with the partnership we have is that the public can utilize the field for free."
Designing the facility posed a new challenge for BLM civil engineer Brian Kunk.
"Working for the BLM, with millions of acres, you never know what you are going to do," he said. "Campgrounds are the most normal thing I do. This was the first time I did this."
Glenn Evans, another club member who got involved in the hobby in 2006, is glad he did.
"I enjoy the building part and the flying part," he said. "Once you are flying and reach the point of proficiency where you can take off and fly or do a loop or a roll, it's relaxing. I am still a kid at heart. I like to have toys."
Speaking of kids, Berg said flying the radio-control planes has turned into a family activity with his son and two daughters participating. Berg, who can pilot real helicopters, said 9-year-old Nathan outflies him every time.
"Our goal is to increase our member base," he said, "not for financial reasons, but to help the public understand how much fun it is, and that it can be family time."
Berg says the new flying field is already paying dividends by helping to land a model jet rally next year with participants coming from across the nation. The club already staged a Pro Warbird race, which lured remote-control enthusiasts from four states.
All those attractions are good news for Iron County, a partner in the 6,500-acre Three Peaks Recreation Area, which includes a shooting range, equestrian area and trails for hiking, mountain biking and off-highway vehicles.
"We're happy it's there," said Maria Twitchell, executive director of the Cedar City-Brian Head Tourism Bureau, of the new model port. "It's going to bring great things to tourism. It is now a first-class field."
Members of the Cedar City Radio Control Club are betting the buzz will build and then their hobby will really take off.
Three Peaks model port
O The Three Peaks Recreation Area and its model-plane port are about 10 miles northwest of Cedar City. From Interstate 15 Exit 59, head west on State Route 6 for 3 miles to Lund Highway. Head north 5 miles to Midvalley Road and the Three Peaks complex. For information on events or joining a club, go to the Cedar City Radio Control Club website at http://www.miners-peak.com/ccrcc