By Mark Spencer
Our partnership with the Recreational Aviation Foundation and USFS is paying off at the Grapevine Airstrip, 88AZ. One of the accomplishments of then RAF President John McKenna a few years ago in Washington D.C. was the addition of language to the Department of Agriculture budget language that directed the USFS to invest $750,000 into backcountry “rural” airstrips each year. While it’s been a real struggle to actually spend that money due to the long term effects on manpower the USFS faces due to overall budget cuts, Region 3, that’s AZ and NM, has benefited from this funding on several occasions. For example, the Negrito airstrip, 0NM7, received funds from this money for fencing and a vault toilet over the last couple of years.
I received a call from our friend and ardent supporter, District Ranger Kelly Jardine, a few weeks ago letting me know that he’s been given $10,000 this year to be invested by August 30th at the Grapevine airstrip. Kelly has his hands full with the mop up of one of the largest fires the Tonto has ever experienced, the Bush fire, and was grasping at straws as to how to spend this money while he has no manpower to spare at this time. We discussed the best possible options and decided that purchasing materials needed for shoring up the runway edges, along with gabion baskets, a culvert, and associated materials for erosion control would be the best plan. This money will purchase roughly 300 tons of material, after the baskets and their fill rock. That’s a lot of material! Thanks to the quick work of Grapevine’s APA/RAF sponsor, Mike Andresen, we have a plan for storing the material within the airport fenced area. Meanwhile Paul Pitkin has been busy priming the pump on material deals to get the greatest bang for the buck here.
All this material means that, come fall, and the re-opening of the Tonto National Forest, we’ll need plenty of pilot volunteers at Grapevine to help install this material along the edges of the runway, along with filling the gabions and placing them in the severe erosion area near the north apron. Stay tuned for this effort!