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Volunteers Continue Caring for Death Valley’s Airstrips

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The RAF and the National Park Service (NPS) officially renewed their cooperative maintenance agreement on the three airstrips within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park September 1. The original renewable five-year agreement was inked in 2008 and approved RAF volunteers performing maintenance on the Park's airstrips. This Volunteer In the Parks, or “VIP” agreement marked the first such compact between the NPS and a pilot organization, a major step towards ensuring aircraft’s very low impact form of access to the park. 

“The RAF and the NPS have have been successful partnering for nearly ten years to make access to these areas safe and available to the aviation community,” RAF board chairman John McKenna said. 

The RAF works in conjunction with pilot associations from the surrounding areas to provide manpower and funds to complete projects. When Chicken Strip washed out and became unsafe after an October 2016 downpour, RAF California State Liaisons mustered volunteers and worked quickly to re-open the gravel strip. “We go into Chicken Strip each fall for maintenance,” RAF California Liaison Rick Lach said. “We pull the drag to smooth out the ‘whoop-de-doos’, and volunteers fill low spots with rakes and shovels. We have no problem rounding up twenty or so volunteers from all over California and Arizona for a work weekend,” he added. Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells are paved and the RAF pulls weeds and sees to tie-down maintenance. “It’s a real pleasure working with Karen (McKinlay-Jones, Chief Ranger) and Mike (Reynolds, Park Superintendent),” Lach added. “They have been very supportive.”

“The RAF is proud of our relationship with the Park Service in Death Valley and we look forward to a continued working relationship throughout the next five years of this renewed agreement,” McKenna added.