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Modelers group makes pitch for city-owned pond; access concerns raised by council

Mar 4, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Modelers Park Association hopes to lease a city-owned pond off East Monroe Avenue to operate remote-controlled boats and aircraft that land on water.

By leasing the pond, the association would limit public access, but only during WMOPA events. Gates would be closed vehicular travel during those event, but pedestrians still could walk into the area. They would be urged to withhold from activities such as swimming, fishing or dog training that would interfere with modelers events. The association also would acquire insurance for liability purposes and to protect any improvements made at the site.

Honor Farm property

WYMOPA already has a sub-lease agreement with the city for is headquarters park on Wyoming Honor Farm property just north of Riverton. That park allows for other radio-controlled sports aircraft and ground craft. The area was intended to have water designated for remote-controlled boats and water aircraft, but there wasn't a sufficient water supply or pond for that.

Eddie Amend, founder and former president of the association, said many RC boats need at least two feet of water depth.

The existing park provides an avenue to engage in a unique hobby that requires runways and ample space, Amend said. WYMOPA also welcomes pilots from out of state for regional fly-in events.

"We are asking for your continued cooperation and support in developing this recreation niche for the community," Amend said. " Our local participation is strong. We are small in number but very active in operation."

The association has used the pond at the Big Bend ponds site with permission of the former owner, before it was city-owned.

"So, we feel we have made a reasonable use and reasonable transmission," he said. "In addition to what we were able to do before with access to the lake, we can now offer the community access to water craft use and waterborne aircraft use."

Exclusive use

City staff expressed concern about the proposal, and city administrator Steven Weaver said the city is reluctant to lease city property. Typically, leases aren't permitted to one group to the exclusion of others, he said.

Amend said wording used in the proposed lease agreement he put together says WYMOPA would have exclusive use during scheduled events, but that anyone would participate in those events as participants and spectators.

"We do ask for limited access, and that's why we requested some other entrance gates or boulders at specific locations on the two roads that lead from the outside up toward the lake," Amend said.

WYMOPA president Rich Hardt said the group would like to be able to tell people the pond has been reserved for the safety of all parties and vehicular travel and so visitor would know some activities are not permitted during WYMOPA events.

"(We're) not necessarily asking them to leave," Hardt said. "We need the ability to use the site for our purposes when we want to, and the ability to depend on that if we need to call to the police department -- that they'll come out and help us out."

Council member Martin Cannan pinpointed the limitations people would have if they see an area closed off and realized they had to carry in their items for a picnic or had to keep their pets outs.

"I'm getting the idea that we're trading one recreational activity for another," Cannan said.

Other ponds

Council member Richard Gard several other ponds in the area that still would be open to the public, and that the modelers association probably would not be occupying the pond for prolonged periods of time.

Having the WYMOPA events there could also bring more people to the ponds, Gard said.

"We're not preventing public access, just limiting public access," said vice president Scott Jackson.

Another concern by the city was that the only vehicular access to the Wind River requires going through city property. Otherwise people would have to cross private property or on 1838 Rendezvous property. But, Jackson said, the gates would remain open when there are no events going on, and people could still cross by foot.

Mayor Ron Warpness compared this request to Riverton residents who often ask to reserve a shelter at a city park to hold events.

Council member Jonathan Faubion made the comparison to car shows that require the city to close off Main Street, so drivers are asked to follow rules for safe travel or participation.

"This is no different," he said.

Association members said they would probably use the pond only on Sundays and encourage members and non-members to attend.

The council took no action as the discussion was held in a work session.

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