New Cuyama, L88 is located between the Southern California coast and Sierra mountain range about 32 nm north of Santa Barbara. Privately owned by The Blue Sky Center, a nonprofit community development organization that promotes an “offbeat but comfortable camping, retreat, or event experience,” it is open for public use. Built by Atlantic Richfield Company in 1950, more recently it has served as a popular out-of-the-way destination for Southern California pilots, students seeking cross-country hours, and emergency services such as air ambulance and fighting wildfire.
But years of hot sun had taken their toll on the asphalt, and in 2019, the deteriorating runway was closed. A small group of pilots determined to re-open the airport formed a relationship with the Blue Sky Center who offered free housing to volunteers. The group contacted a donor willing to contribute $400,000 toward re-paving, and thanks to additional funds raised directly from the public, the 3,940-ft runway and tie-down areas could be repaved and marked. The work began in 2020 and is currently underway with a grand re-opening and ribbon cutting scheduled for October 13.
RAF California Liaison Katerina Barilov applied successfully for an RAF grant to enhance camping amenities by adding tent platforms, shade structures, fire pits, signage, and a kiosk. The Blue Sky Center also offered $2,000 toward campground improvement. In addition to Blue Sky volunteers, Barilov said, “We will rally local volunteers from the pilot community to do a large portion of the work required.” She hopes to have the work completed by grand re-opening day.
The facility offers expansive views of the New Cuyama valley, access to hiking trails to nearby Corizo Plain National Monument and Los Padres National Forest. Barilov points out that New Cuyama is a rural community of 1,100 residents, including many artists and food entrepreneurs. There is a restaurant in the recently renovated Cuyama Buckhorn hotel, two blocks from the runway. In addition to event facilities, the Blue Sky Center airport campus features glamping huts, and galleries of local art and studio spaces open for use by pilot visitors.
“New Cuyama offers the only full-service public campground for pilots to experience the Southern California desert environment while enjoying the amenities of a full-time host, water, restrooms, showers, and restaurants and artisans within walking distance,” Barilov said.
When reopened, watch for its listing to appear in the Airfield Guide.
Submitted on September 30, 2022.