In 1978 Scott Waddell, Garreth Sheppard, and Tim Morley were looking for a new flying site. Driving from Coulterville down the hill they noticed a spot that looked good. Tim said he had noticed a gate without a lock back up the road. They drove up what is now the old road, to the area where the barn is today. There was no road up to launch, so with Tim sat on the hood of Garreth's blazer, his legs wrapped around the glider rack and they drove up the face of the hill, with Tim pointing out rocks and stumps.
Parking on top where we park now, Tim went south, Garreth looked north, and Scott looked all around, after about forty-five minutes they ended up at today's launch. They said "This looks like a good place" There was, however, a little scraggly oak tree about two inches in diameter on top of launch. Scott an Garreth tried to break the tree but could not, so they bent it over and piled rocks on it. They set up Tim's Wills Wing 185 XC, Tim launched and flew for about twenty minutes, then landed about where the picnic table is today. Scott launched and flew for awhile, and landed with Tim, Garreth drove down the hill and picked them up. They were not going to tell anyone about this site and intended to keep it a deep dark secret. The next weekend about ten pilots showed up to fly.
They started flying more and more at this site in 1979 rather than at Bullion, as this regular site was shut down. This site was all they had to fly. They went to the county recorder and found out who owned the property. It was owned buy five or six people in Modesto. They gave permission to use the launch and fly at no charge. Then they sold the land to a paving contractor and he charged twenty-five dollars a month. After about two years he sold the land to Connie Wright. Connie raised the rent to about seventy five dollars a month. Then he sold the land to Lee Renner, and he raised the rent even higher. Renner has since sold the launch area but still collects the rent.
In 1980 the day after Thanksgiving, a Friday, about ten pilots were flying and only got sled rides. They were landing in the lake bed by the swimming lagoon. Jim Rice, from Castle Air Force Base, was last to launch. He waited for better conditions that never came. Only two weeks before he had crashed his Griffen glider on launch at Big Sur and had just repaired the glider. Jim launched and flew straight out. The nose pitched down twice. Tim said that it did not look right. Jim did not fly like that. They watched as he flew out over the road to the boat ramp at about three or four hundred feet, the nose pitched down and the glider dove straight into the road.
About ten feet from the crash an elderly couple were walking on the road. Jim was killed instantly. This was the first time the site was shut down. After about six months pilots were told to land in the upper LZ. They could still land in the lake bed when the water was down, but were not to fly over the campground.
From 1981 to 1982 there were about six regular pilots flying. Tim tried to go to horseshoe several times, but had to leave high enough to make it back to the LZ. Then Chris Arai got high and went to horseshoe and stayed low on the hill for about five hours, trying to get back. Tim was mad because he was not able to stay up at horseshoe, Pat Denevan and Chris Arai said they finely out Morleyed Morley. In 1983 about twelve pilots were flying. They formed a club and received keys from M.I.D. to the upper LZ.
In 1984 Tim crashed on landing in the upper LZ on a tandem flight, he was flown out by Medi-flight. He suffered a broken neck.
During that same year, the club lost the site again. Some pilots did not pay park fees, or camping fees. We again got the site back through the help of Bruce Erwin, in charge of recreation for M.I.D. He fought for us at the board of directors meeting, and with a four to three vote we could fly again.
The site has been shut down for a day or two since then for cutting of trees and poor communication with M.I.D. If we get kicked out again, for almost anything, we may have to start looking for a new flying site.
1986, The flyin of the century at Lake McClure. Over three hundred pilots launched on a great day for flying and cross country flights. In 1991 Ken Muscio and Judy Laiden flew sixty miles south together. In 1995 Shannon Raby flew to Madera for the longest flight, to date, from Rice Mt. launch.