Team effort between the Recreational Aviation Foundation and the Arizona Pilot’s Association is producing great results! The process of placing the Grapevine airstrip back on the Phoenix sectional, replacing the closed airport symbol that has marked the place of the Grapevine for nearly 20 years has begun!

In  my mind, it seems like just last year that we had our first volunteer weekend at the Grapevine, clearing the cracks and runway edges of over 100 trees and shrubs that had made their attempt at reclaiming the airstrip to nature. Surely no volunteer from that weekend will forget the thorns and bloody mess they made of us all, and I’ll never forget DR Jardine standing there with what I could have sworn was a tear in his eye as I asked him what was wrong, “nothing, nothing, I just cannot tell you what this does for me to see all these volunteers willing to do this…” He went on to explain how lack of funding was forcing them to decommission a large number of the camp sites around the lake, for lack of funding and use, and how our group, willing to work for our vision of using the Grapevine airstrip again. There have been countless hours of volunteer work, tens of thousands of dollars in donations since then, and plenty of work left, but one thing I can say for certain is that these efforts and patience are paying off. Believe it or not, that was 2011, and Grapevine has become the most visited backcountry airstrip in Arizona, and even Forest Service Region 3 as a whole. Its unique hard surface, in a remote location, with no automobiles allowed, and only a short distance from the shores of Roosevelt Lake, have made it a popular place, and in many cases the only backcountry airstrip many pilots will ever visit.

We’re not finished with maintenance, and APA president, Tommy Thomason has already begun the work of lining up a company to help us surface seal the runway this summer. We’ve got some funds left over from the crack sealing and I know you volunteers are just chomping at the bit to get your sleeves rolled up and help as you have thus far! In any case, when you see the call for volunteers go out, don’t count on someone else if you can help yourself. 

As we learned with the Double Circle Ranch, now the first newly charted USFS airstrip in region 3 in decades, this process can take upwards of a year. It starts with the completion of the FAA’s 7480-1 form, which I’ll first submit to the FS, and after signature on to the FAA. This initiates an air space study, and upon approval, 3- 6 months, the 5010 form will be completed, and once approved, 3-6 months, the closed symbol will be removed from the sectional and the new identifier and appropriate info put in its place! Grapevine airstrip will not be without some restrictions, for example, no training, touch and go operations and such, and potentially some sort of reservation system for camping, but any restrictions will be there to secure long term safe access, and to keep the backcountry characteristics that draw most folks there. Make no mistake, the National RAF/USFS MOU was required by the Tonto Forest Supervisor before he’d here of moving this far on Grapevine before the MOU was complete. Hats off to the RAF and local pilots on this huge next step!

Submitted on May 7, 2016.

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