Saving Ocean Ridge Airport

In the 1930s when Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney needed to raise money, they found themselves a barn, got the gang together and put on a show. These days fundraising is done online through crowdsourcing, where lots of people donate whatever they can.

In Gualala, Calif., the owners of Ocean Ridge Airport (E55) have turned to the crowdsourcing site Smallknot.com to raise money to repair the runway. If the runway isn’t repaired by Sept. 30, the airport will close to the public.

The airport, on the California coast some 80 miles north of San Francisco, was built in the 1960s as part of a fly-in golf resort some 1,000 feet above the oceanfront community of Gualala. However, there wasn’t enough freshwater to support a golf course and the project failed.

John Bower acquired the airport in 1970 and it has been in the family and open to the public since then. The airport is home to approximately 11 aircraft and sees a lot of transient traffic because of the thriving tourist trade in the area. The airport’s motto is “Above the fog, beyond the smog,” which alludes to the fact the airport is often above the fogline and well past the pollution of the big cities.

“Over the years, the family has paid for repairs and upkeep at the airport, but since the economy went down and the price of asphalt has doubled,  we can’t afford to make the necessary repairs,” Julie Bower explains.
She noted the asphalt on the 2,500-foot runway “is alligatoring and there are potholes.”

In fact, the runway is in such poor condition the California Department of Transportation is threatening to pull the airport’s public use permit unless repairs are made.

If the DOT removes the public use permit, the airport will become a Special Use Airport.

“That means pilots who fly in here will need to telephone in advance to get permission from the owner to land there,” said Bower. “That could be problematic since the owner of the airport, my father-in-law, also has a hotel he runs downtown away from the airport.”

Because the airport is privately owned, it is not eligible for FAA or state grants that are often used by publicly owned airports to pay for runway repairs.

Although no one in the family is a pilot, they understand how important the airport is to the community, according to Bower.

The family has until September to raise $60,000 to put an asphalt slurry coating on the  runway.

“We launched the campaign in late May,” she said.

As of July 17, the campaign had raised $22,000, according to the airport’s website.

Bower, noting the community’s natural beauty and well-known arts scene, sees the fundraising campaign as a way to bring more visitors to the area. Participants in the online funding campaign receive rewards, which are in-kind thanks in the form of gift certificates for stays in local hotels, food, and even massages.

Donations begin at $25 and increase from there. The website notes “every bit counts.” The airport will receive the funds whether or not the goal is reached.

Donations can be made on the airport website or at Smallknot.com

Comments

  1. Can the CA DOT close a private runway?

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