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History of the Montrose Model Aircraft Association, Inc.

The Montrose Model Aircraft Association (MMAA) is now a tax exempt organization which owns its own flying site. It all began in 1971 when the Montrose Mini-Flyers was formed by a loose group of twelve modelers. The Mini Flyers first flying site had a major county road to the west and an airplane eating canyon to the east. Over the next 26 years, triggered by vandalism, and increasing development pressure, the club moved from one location to another.

The current name of Montrose Model Aircraft Association (MMAA) was adopted, corporate papers filed, and tax exempt status granted in March of 1996. AMA sanction occurred in 1997.

In 1996, an informal lease on private land south of Montrose was obtained. This was a scenic location, with no obstructions, airplane eating hills, or canyons. The search for another more permanent site continued. At that time members developed a vision for the club that included education, community involvement and a first class facility.

Today, MMAA’s Mission Statement stresses an emphasis on educational activity within the community, as well as within the association, and welcomes model aviation enthusiasts of all ages and interests. By the year two thousand the membership had grown to over fifty, largely sport flyers, with participation in radio control, free flight, and control line. Since 1998, basic model building classes have been offered through the Montrose Recreation District. Educational activities have also been conducted at after school venues, juvenile detention facilities, and other locations. MMAA also established an RC pilot training program. With the help of an anonymous donor, donations from Partners, Delta Montrose Electric Association, and MMAA members a model aviation academy, targeted primarily toward “at risk” children was initiated in 2004.

In 1997, MMAA held its first annual Youth Aviation Day, offered to local “at risk” children in cooperation with the local Partners organization. This annual event has been expanded to offer the experience of flying a radio controlled airplane to Foster Children and other local youth. By 2003, nearly one hundred children attended the event. During a typical day the children fly an RC model, are given basic instruction in what makes an airplane fly, and given a balsa glider which they use to participate in a contest. Each child and parent or senior partner are provided lunch and drinks, and each child also wins some kind of aviation related prize, ranging from small dollar toys, to flying electric models. The full size aviation community participates, with fly by’s of a Bell 47 helicopter, an Air Tractor, a Varga Kachina, a Long-Eze, Smith Miniplane, and a Stemme motor glider. The audience is provided with a commentary on the name, origin, use, and specifications for each aircraft. We have also had a full size sailplane and ultra-light aircraft on site. Photos of this event can be found in the photo archive section of the MMAA web site.

In 1997, Montrose County partnered with MMAA to locate and establish a “permanent” facility through a Recreation and Public Purposes Act lease with the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The ensuing public controversy caught MMAA by surprise. It appeared that no support was forthcoming from the community. Attempts to work with citizens groups to find an acceptable alternative site made no progress. In the midst of all of this a local resident, Richard Harding, approached the MMAA and offered to sell MMAA an 83 acre private parcel completely surrounded by public lands. As it happened, populations of a plant listed as Endangered by the Federal Government were discovered on the property. One or two Association members, as well as Mr. and Ms. Harding felt that the plant presented an opportunity, rather than a liability, and began to pursue a conservation easement on the property. Included in this proposal would be the protection of the endangered plant (the clay loving wild buckwheat, Eriogonum pelinophilum) and its environment, construction of a model airplane flying site, and construction of an outdoor earth science facility for the local schools.

Those involved with MMAA were surprised when community opposition to the original proposal, west of Olathe, carried over to this site as well. There were complaints about potential trash, traffic, noise, damage to the environment, and so on. Through persistent efforts of MMAA and the Hardings, all the issues were resolved.

Permits from Montrose County were obtained for the construction and operation of the flying site in 2002, and by 2003 conservation easements for both forty acre parcels were completed. The tax benefits and other compensations from these easements offset Mr. and Ms. Harding’s debt on the parcel. By the spring of that year construction of Olathe Centennial Field began.

MMAA is fortunate in receiving support from: the Colorado Department of Transportation (recycled cabanas, guard rail, and other materials), community members (equipment and personal time), Blueline Engineering (surveying and design), Delta Montrose Electric Association (grants), AMA (grants and other support), and the former property owners. Photos of work crews, and field development projects can be found on this the photo gallery on this web site.

On the Centennial of Flight in 2003, Mr. Harding and his wife Debra signed a quit claim deed to 40 acres of the property transferring title to MMAA for a ten dollar fee. In November of 2005, Mr. and Ms. Harding transferred the remaining 43 acres. This put MMAA in the unique position of owning a facility surrounded by public land (see the Flying Site Assistance articles in the June 2004 and February 2005 issues of Model Aviation Magazine for more information). The Association remains indebted to the generosity of Ms. and Mr. Harding.

The vision of its members has carried the Association toward a future of educational activities, community involvement, security, and participation in the facets of Model Aviation that its members enjoy.