Clovis modelers free to fly Sierra Meadows Park

A model plane is on display during the Clovis RC Club’s fun fly event held last month in Reedley. (Contributed by Erik Lacour)

As the popularity of drones increases for recreational use, the area airspace can sometimes get convoluted and the rules can be hazy. That is why one local club, with enthusiasm for flying unique model planes of all sizes, has made it its mission to bring a safe and secure spot for such recreation to the Clovis area.

For some time, members of the Clovis Area Modelers Club, also known as the Clovis RC Club, have made the trek to Reedley’s Peg field to fly their fun and festive—and oftentimes homemade, designed and engineered—mini planes, as that location offers a large space safe from the ever-growing Fresno/Clovis metro populace. While members would also try to fly on occasion in areas closer to home, it was always a risk that their precious and often expensive hobby planes could crash into a drone or other flying object. Even in those rare open space fields without trees, they’d often have to relinquish their flying fun to those playing soccer or partaking in other athletic activities as space in most area parks is limited.

The best place in the area, they determined, was Sierra Meadows Park, located at Sierra and Temperance north of the Miss Winkles Pet Adoption Center. But with many Clovis homeowners in the area, the club had to request permission as well as adhere to some guidelines, such as time of use restrictions, with the city.

In April, city council members were happy to comply with the club’s request for a temporary space at the park and even agreed to having signage posted in the area, setting the field in the back of the park apart for their use and setting guidelines. For example, not just anyone can fly their plane, they must have liability insurance coverage. While the space isn’t a free for all for the RC Club—they will still have to relinquish the space when there is a children’s soccer tournament going on there. For example, RC Club president Erik Lacour said it’s a great start he hopes will eventually lead the club to getting the first permanent modelers field in Fresno County.

“This is a major victory for the club and our community,” Lacour said. “This is the only such park in Fresno County. This is a groundbreaking step by the council in the right direction for safer airspace near Fresno air terminal, better education opportunities for schools and colleges, mentoring of youth and community recreation.”

Clovis Public Utilities Director Scott Redelfs had a chance to check out the RC Club in action and agreed that the activity will provide great educational opportunities as well as recreation for the community.

“It was fun meeting [the RC Club]. They brought out all their gadgets and planes and I think through that meeting we came to a use agreement for temporary purposes so they can fly battery operated planes so that they don’t hit the noise ordinance,” Redelfs said. “I talked to [Clovis] PD and it sounds like as long as we keep them in a designated portion of the park, which is the northern part of Sierra and Temperance away from Miss Winkles, they wouldn’t have any issues. The RC Club has AMA insurance so they will already bring in that with the liability portion. They are a good group of guys and they understand we will come up with some policy of how and when they can fly so it’s not to endanger or put anybody at risk with helicopters and planes flying overhead. I think we can get there. We’re in the process of doing that and we hope that will work until they find a permanent home.”

“Watching these guys fly, they are good and they stay right within the space, it’s amazing,” Redelfs said about his observations of the club. “We think we can have a mutual use where these things can cohabitate.”

Redelfs added that this is a trial run so if there are any citizen concerns from neighbors in the area, the city and the club will revisit the policies already in place. For now, though, it seems recreational modelers are free to fly at Sierra Meadows so long as they meet the insurance and time of use requirements posted in the field.