Ocean Ridge Airport Association (ORAA)
PO Box 1000
Gualala, CA 95445
October 29, 2013
Dear friends of Ocean Ridge Airport,
As you may be aware, the condition of the runway surface at Ocean Ridge Airport has degraded to a condition that threatens the future viability of the airport. In fact, Caltrans, the California State governing agency that issues airport operating permits, conducted an inspection of the airport on August 2, 2013 and issued a report that states the runway surface exhibits “severe raveling and loss of asphalt aggregates” that can potentially create Foreign Object Damage to aircraft and propellers. The report also states that “the safety implications of the loose aggregate can include reduced contact with the runway during operations, and can also result in damage to tires, windscreens and propellers.” The report requires that improvements be made to the runway surface by September 30, 2014 or “Caltrans may be forced to take permit action.”
Ocean Ridge airport is unique in that it is privately owned, but has been designated as public use by Mr. John Bower, who is not a pilot himself. He recognizes that the airport is a vital link in Gualala’s infrastructure, especially in the event of a disaster such as a major fire or earthquake. To date, Mr. Bower has funded the maintenance of the airport with his own funds, but given the cost to repair the runway, needs financial assistance if the airport is to remain open to the public.
A small group, the Ocean Ridge Airport Association (ORAA), has met with Mr. Bower several times to address these problems and to investigate sustainable solutions for continued airport access. Some of the items include:
• Compilation of names/addresses of interested individuals, currently numbering over 30 people.
• A bank account has been established for ORAA in order to receive monies and distribute those monies for maintenance of the runway.
• That ORAA will only be involved in runway improvements and future maintenance. Mr. Bower will retain full ownership and responsibility for the rest of the property, including airport hangars.
• That the runway would allow turbine powered propeller planes under 4500 pounds gross weight to land at Ocean Ridge Airport until improvements are made.
• Improvement of revenue collections, including:
o Tie down fees have been increased to $7 for single engines and $10 for multi-engines. This brings Ocean Ridge Airport in line with nearby airports.
o To offer monthly and annual tie down packages for pilots.
o To assess a fee for all other users of the airport, such as REACH, CalStar, the South Coast Fire Department, and the Coast Life Support District.
o To relocate the collections box to a more convenient location for pilots, with the money going directly to the maintenance of the runway.
o To install new signage at the airport for information and fees.
• To resolve the runway surface discrepancies noted in the Caltrans report. Bids were obtained from slurry-seal contractors, the lowest bid being $60,000. It has been decided that runway repairs will not happen this year. This will to give us time to come up with a more detailed plan for fundraising and improvements. Our goal is to have the slurry-seal project completed prior to the September 30, 2014 Caltrans deadline The aircraft gross weight limit is being reduced from the current 8,000 lbs. to 4,500 lbs. to mitigate runway damage by heavier aircraft.
As a user of Ocean Ridge Airport, we know that you recognize the importance of keeping the airport open and available to our community. The Bower family is committed to keeping the airport open on a long-term basis if we all can contribute to its maintenance, and will welcome any additional suggestions you may have. In the near future, we are planning to have a website constructed to help disseminate any new developments.
John H. Bower
Has any thought been given to Airport Improvement Fund grants to assist with the runway repair and other airfield projects? It seems like Ocean Ridge is exactly the kind of vital field that could benefit from AIP funding…
Thanks for commenting, Mike. Because the airport is privately owned and does not qualify to be on the NPIAS, it is unlikely that it would ever qualify for that type of funding. In fact, most public funding is out of reach for that reason.
There should be a number of ways the use and the maintenance of the airport could be transferred from the private owner to either a non-profit entity or to a government entity. This should qualify the donations for tax deductability and may also qualify for governmental funding. The simplist would be to lease the property to the public or non-profit entity. The owner might also get a tax deduction if the lease were for no cost or below fair market value. It would be good to develop local attorney and CPA resources.
Thanks for your comment and suggestions, John. We’ve explored these ideas but weren’t able to follow through with any of them. The owner is not interested in divesting of his property to the county or to a non-profit at this point. His accountant also warned that it might be a hard sell to the IRS when applying for a non-profit, even if the runway itself were leased to the organization since it is still owned by a private entity. But ORAA is not giving up on any future possibility! We’ll find a workable solution for the long haul. The short deadline (1 year back in August 2013) to get the runway repaired prevented us from pursuing anything other than straight fundraising for the time being.
Enlist the help of the local population and pilots alike by putting on an monthly events showcasing food that is unique. Our organization regularly host a “Brat Bust”. Brats are common in Wisconsin but we still sell over 500 brats at each event.
What a fun idea, Tony! Thank you for the suggestion. We’ll see if we can organize something along those lines some day soon.