Starting a few years ago, the Newton Area Radio Control Club (NARCC) began pushing the idea of a multipurpose area for remote-controlled vehicles in the county parks, an idea that began to gain traction this month as members Joe Owen and Darrin Schmidt made a formal proposal to the Parks Advisory board.
Looking at 25 acres of land in the the Blue Stem area of East Park (north of the rest rooms), which are currently solely used for haying, the NARCC envisions a miniaturized park that would feature an airstrip for planes, a dirt racing track, rugged terrain for off-road vehicles and even a drone racing course — as well as access to the lake for RC boats.
"We were always looking for ways to improve the parks for Harvey County citizens and what could we do, what would it look like if we made it happen," Owen said of the growing plans for the RC Park. "Then, it just kind of snowballed from there."
Initially, Owen had approached Parks Director Kass Miller about the idea and they were looking at Camp Hawk as a potential location, but that was ruled out for logistical reasons.
"The amount of space that's needed to really do everything we want to do is not really available out at Camp Hawk," Miller said, "plus the access to the areas we have available is not really conducive to people being able to carry in equipment and things like that."
Meanwhile, as a plan began to form, the NARCC worked with the Parks Department on some float fly-ins at East Park over the last few summers.— leading the group to see some potential for an RC park at that location.
Plans for potential work in installing the park would be rather simple, too, as Owen sees it. Outside of lining out the race tracks, the only real prep work would be getting the airstrip ready.
"All that entails is we would basically run some rollers over the ground and get the ground nice and flat...and plant some good grass that will make a nice, tight carpet basically for the planes to land on and take off of," Owen said.
Currently, the plan is to install two air strips — one oriented north/south and one east/west — which Owen said could be a great benefit in attracting events to the area. Building from the fly-ins, Miller noted there has been discussion of having at least one event per month over the summer at the potential RC Park.
Once permission is granted, Owen said work on the park could begin immediately — with the hopes of starting in the spring. However, Miller noted there are a number of "particulars" (i.e. ownership, insurance, rules and regulations, etc.) the advisory board wants to see sorted out before moving forward with the potential project, as no decision was made at the January meeting.
"We're still discussing it, looking into some things," Miller said. "It's going to be a slow process, but we're still really positive that we can hopefully make it happen."
Regarding insurance, Owen noted that for liability reasons anyone wanting to fly planes at the RC Park would need to be members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics — but the initial plan is to make the other aspects open to the public.
Given what Owen said he has already heard from fellow RC enthusiasts in the area and how successful similar setups (few and far between) have been, he expects a feature like an RC Park would be a boon for all involved.
"All of them are excited that we're presenting this and have all promised to come up and join as members of the club, so I would say that it's got some potential to be a very good thing for Harvey County and the surrounding area," Owen said. "I think it would be a great entertainment aspect and recreational aspect of the Parks Department."