In 1982 Dennis Caudle approached Mr. Walker (Parks & Recreation, County of San Diego) about possible use of the Bonsal Landfill for a future model airplane field. Mr. Walker explained that although the landfill was slated to close within a few years that the possibility was not great. He further explained that the model clubs throughout the county represented a problem for county officials since there was substantial competition between clubs for land use and little cooperation and coordination. This simply increased the frustration and irritation level of county officials beyond reasonable levels. In the 1970s Caudle helped to organize model clubs in Santa Barbara county which ultimately resulted in use of landfills for clubs. He explained this history to Mr. Walker who responded that such an organization would greatly improve chances of land allocation for model clubs in San Diego County.
In 1984 Caudle sent a letter to all 16 clubs in the county proposing a common meeting to organize an Association of Model Clubs. The response was rewarding and within a year the Association was formed. By 1987 a good relationship between county and Association existed. The County Board of Directors had passed a resolution supporting landfill use by modelers with the stipulation that the Association be the responsible entity and primary contact for property administration. Also, by 1987 modeling sites were in successful operation and a good image for the modeling community was forming.
As a part of the Association's routine site search activities, headed by Will Hubbard, the Gopher Landfill was again identified as a potential site. Bob Downer now represented Parks and Recreation and the property was "owned" by Solid Waste Division headed by Bob Allen. We were given permission to pursue the site potential by our county board representative and Mr. Allen. The stipulation was that we obtain approval of the neighbors and local planning board. Don Madison, Jim Wilson, Clif Bruce and Dennis Caudle began the process.
One of the first steps was to present the proposal to the Bonsal planning board. We never felt so soundly defeated. Bob Downer, who attended the meeting, explained that the emotional reaction from the neighbors who had organized against the proposal and attended en-mass was based on years of built up hostility due to the sounds, smells, traffic, and activity associated with landfills. Basically, the neighbors felt they had put up with enough "hassle" and didn't want any part of a "noisy" model airplane field replacing the dump.
We began a door to door campaign pleading our case and seeking a compromise solution. Sound fell out as the primary issue. After two years of persistence we were granted (by the board and "some" neighbors) a test of flight sounds. During the period of door to door campaign we struggled with a variety of methods to reduce and reasonably quantify the resulting sound. Thanks largely to the work of Jim and Clif, workable sound reduction methods were realized and the site sound tests were successful in that we were granted a trial period at the site by the board. However, it required that we provide a means for the neighbors to control objectionable aircraft. The means agreed upon was the use of a flight log registering each flight by pilot time and plane. That way a neighbor could note the plane color and time of day. We were obligated to reduce the sound of the offending plane or ground it. We were also warned that if many such complaints occurred we would be ousted! The following three years of site operation resulted in a coexistence with the neighbors and no"formal" complaints through careful and strict enforcement of sound rules. The ultimate test of a plane's acceptable sound level was to listen to it in flight after a reasonable ground test with meter and tach.
Several years ago we were obligated to vacate the site due to EPA rulings for safety (methane gas was detected). During the last two years the County has installed a methane vacuum and burnoff system. Approval for us to reacquire the site use privileges came at risk several times. Thanks to the efforts of Don Madison, Bob Allen and his successor Ralph Thielicke, we were reinstated and given permission to complete the site construction plans submitted in 1988 including paving. It is critical that we understand this history and its obligations so we may retain this site for the remaining 31 years of potential site use.
DEVELOPMENT OF SOUND MEASUREMENTS. Although the current (and so far successful) method of determining acceptable sound levels is ultimately to listen to any given plane, the neighbors are the ones who will determine final acceptability. Jim Wilson accurately observed that we needed a simple and practical method for members to determine if they are even close to acceptable levels and keep those making the final approval of aircraft from slowly sliding the scale for acceptability.
We pursued the classical science modeling methods and with assistance of Ian Maclaughlin and other capable technical members attempted to characterize and understand the problem. Ultimately Jim proposed a simple repeatable method requiring only a sound meter and tachometer to establish and acceptable test. We felt that if a member could pass this criteria we would be reasonably assured of retaining the site. This method (engine firing frequency in thousands plus DBa reading) was understandable by both technical and nontechnical members. It did not represent a completely fair or technically perfect method, but it did keep us honest and represent a stable and reasonable standard. This method has recently been changed to single reading taken with a calibrated db meter.
Thanks to the work of Jim, Ian, Clif and others, a series of mufflers and other sound suppression methods were developed and the vast majority of the members were able to pass without substantial difficulty. In cases where in fact, a plane was acceptably quiet but borderline to passing the standard, the final listening test by appointed judges was applied. Remember: 90 dbA at 9 feet-no exceptions.
As a new, or returning member, of the WINGMASTERS I entreat you to fully read this document and grasp the fragile nature of our tenure at this site. Our retention of the field depends mainly on our performance on sound control. I do not argue that there are more rigorous and accurate methods of establishing a sound tests and standards-but I do argue that the current method is both proven and simple enough to be practical. Where the results seem inaccurate, a method of appeal and correction is available to each member.
Perhaps what is important is not the details of methodology, but is instead the acceptance by all members that we must live up to our promises to the County and neighbors to remain a "quiet" field. As you can see from the history, a lot of members have spent years acquiring and developing the Gopher Canyon site. We can expect several decades of use as long as we live up to our part of the agreement. You are the key to success. You have the responsibility to your fellow members and yourself to do what is right and keep our site quiet.