DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – The Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) and the National Park Service (NPS) recently renewed their agreement addressing maintenance on the three airstrips in Death Valley National Park. Volunteers will perform maintenance on public airstrips at Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, and Saline Valley.
“The RAF and the NPS have been successfully partnering for nearly 10 years to make access to these areas safe and available to the aviation community,” RAF board chairman John McKenna said.
Death Valley National Park’s superintendent, Mike Reynolds, added, “We really appreciate the hard work and equipment that RAF’s volunteers contribute to help maintain the airstrips in Death Valley. We couldn’t do this without them.”
The original memorandum of understanding was signed in 2008 and approves RAF volunteers performing regular maintenance on the park’s airstrips. This volunteer agreement marked the first such compact between the NPS and a pilot organization. The NPS also works on the airstrips, such as pavement maintenance.
The RAF works in conjunction with pilot associations and groups from surrounding areas to provide manpower and funds to complete projects.
“We have no problem rounding up 20 or so volunteers from all over California and Arizona for a work weekend,” said Rick Lach, RAF’s California State Liaison.
The RAF pulls weeds and addresses tie-down maintenance at the paved airstrips in Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. Work is more involved at the Chicken Strip, the remote unpaved airstrip in Saline Valley.
When the Chicken Strip washed out and became unsafe after an October 2016 downpour, RAF mustered volunteers and worked to re-open the gravel strip.
“We go into Chicken Strip each fall for maintenance,” Lach said. “We pull the drag to smooth out the ‘whoop-de-doos’, and volunteers fill low spots with rakes and shovels.”