Myricks Airport (1M8) in Berkley, Massachusetts, is a small general aviation airport privately owned by Murray Randall. Its one grass runway averages 88 flights a week and there are nine aircraft based at the field.
But there is a big mission at the former cow pasture turned airport: To preserve the grass runways that abound in this nation and spread the good news about general aviation.
The 55-acre Brightman Dairy Farm was converted to an airport by John Brightman prior to World War II. John flew a Piper Cub before the war. During the war, flight was prohibited within 50 miles of the coast, so he diassembled his Cub and stored it in a chicken coop.
After the war, up until 1954, there was a flight school at the airport. Under the GI Bill of Rights, more than 300 veterans learned to fly at Myricks.
In 1978, the Brightmans put the airfield property on the market. Two years later, Randall became its owner.
Immediately upon purchasing the property, Randall began the tedious process of opening the previously private restricted 2,200-foot runway to the public. Within two years Aeronautics Commissioner Arnie Stymest accomplished the task, according to Randall. Simultaneously, the land was opened to the public for recreational purposes.
In 2007, a conservation easement was donated to The Trustees of Reservations to ensure that land could not be developed, while also ensuring that the land will remain an airport indefinitely.
Located just 30 miles south of Boston — within the influences of the big city — the airfield remains insulated, with 150 acres on the east under an agricultural restriction, forest restriction to the west, the Cotley Brook wet lands to the north, and more wet lands to the south.
“Today the 55 acre field is an appealing airport with hay fields, wooded area, and a meandering brook,” Randall reports. “We hold a popular, annual fly-in with antique classic, ultralight aircraft, supplemented with antique autos, sports cars, motorcycles and even steam cars.”
The local Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 196 provides grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and soda during the event.
“Our objective is to encourage action at various levels to preserve the smaller grass runway public use airports and outline the steps that have been implemented at Myricks,” he noted.
He noted the outline is presented in detail — along with plenty of photos — at MyricksAirfieldFoundation.org.
But why you should get involved? After all, most pilots don’t own their own private airfield.
“You may not have a runway on your property, but many enjoy access to private fields and know the owners,” he said. “Take action.”
The most important step is the implementation of a deed-recorded Conservation Restriction, he advises.
“The deeded conservation restriction is the necessary tool preventing development of the airport property in perpetuity,” he explained. “It is vital that the landowner have a big role in the preparation of the deed restriction.”
It also is important that the deed restriction be granted to an organization with a background devoted to conservation purposes, he said.
“In Myrick’s case, The Trustees of Reservations accepted the conservation restriction deed and responsibilities,” he explained.
The conservation restriction likely reduces the value of the land, which provides “considerable federal tax relief, extending over a seven-year period,” according to Randall.
The next step in the evolution of the mission to protect the airfield was the creation of an incorporated public charity foundation to further ensure the owner’s intentions, he continued.
“We opted to create a public, tax exempt 501C3 foundation, but we are not totally convinced of its value and merits,” he stated candidly, conceding, “there are donation tax benefits.”
Some form of organization is necessary to tend to the “business”of the airport, such as grass cutting, ordering fuel, paying taxes and more.
The foundation’s by-laws established a board of directors, which is tasked with running the property, providing “feet on the ground — folks who are devoted to aviation and, importantly, keeping the field open to the public,” he explained.
Randall acknowledges that many people today believe the liability associated with airport ownership is “treacherous.”
“But in many states there is hold harmless legislation precluding legal action against a land owner opening their property to the public,” he said. “The Massachusetts law specifies airport use as specifically immune from such action.”
Randall hopes that others will find inspiration in the story of how Myricks Airfield has perservered. He encourages pilots to fly in to the field, attend the fly-in and get to know about not only 1M8, but other privately held, public airfields across the country.