The origin of Salinas Area Modelers (SAM) goes back to 1976 when a group of local glider flyers were looking for a suitable flying site. They had been using school yards and other places that had restrictions or limitation that severely hampered the activity. They found a pasture on Espinosa Road and approached the owner, Mr. Borchard, about the possibility of using his land. The owner agreed but the site was often shared with his cattle. There was an airstrip adjoining that was used by crop dusters that also threw in obstacles on occasion. But they had a place to fly!
As the group began to attract more flyers, liability became a concern. The group decided they must organize and began meeting at Woody’s Hobby Shop at 913 East Alisal for their organizational meetings. The group agreed to the name Salinas Area Modelers and became a duly sanctioned AMA Club June 3, 1977, Club #1554. It was decided the club needed an avenue of communications and the first copy of SAM SAYS, the club newsletter, was published April 1978. The club soon began to attract other that glider fliers and had a growing interest in powered flight, many flying quarter scale aircraft. The first large scale invitational meet was held at the Borchard site along with many “Old Timer” contests and bar-b-ques.
Fund raising also became a necessary item for the club if it was to be self-supporting, and the first club auction was held in 1982 in the Air Trails hangar at the Salinas Municipal Airport. The auction had many venues over the years, the most memorable being the Flying Lady at Hill Country across the Santa Clara Valley from San Martin. The auctions were very profitable and worthwhile for about 15 years when the realized gain was very little compared to the effort put forth and it was decided to discontinue the auctions.
Summer 1983 brought about the announcement from the landowner that SAM would need to look for another venue as economics dictated the need to plow the cow pasture and put it into vegetable production. A site was located north of Castroville on the Dolan Ranch across from the North Monterey County High School and an agreement was struck to use the site for a very nominal rent. A 100’ X 300’ dirt runway was carved out, but was a problem in the winter as it became mostly mud. Almost immediately noise complaints began to be registered and complaints pertaining to nesting birds arose. The Club soon realized that it wouldn’t be very long before a court order to cease and desist would be issued, and made the decision to vacate the premises.
The complaints encountered at the Dolan site brought up the question of liability. The leaders sought advice on the subject and were advised the best avenue would be to incorporate so any perceived liability would not land on the shoulders of an individual. With the help of a local attorney we became Salinas Area Modelers, Incorporated, in February 1985. SAM was advised to apply for non-profit tax exempt status and in April 1988 that status was granted by the California Franchise Tax Board followed in August 1988 by the IRS.
Shortly after being granted corporate status, the hunt once again began for a flying site. Many sites were investigated with none deemed suitable until an individual in the Monterey County Parks Department mentioned the old County Landfill site off Chualar River Road right next to the Salinas River. Turned out the site was quite suitable as it was fairly well isolated so noise wouldn’t be a problem. The only problem was it was being leased by a rancher at the time, but he was behind in his lease payments and had no plans for the property. The rancher agreed to give up the lease so it could reassigned to SAM. After negotiations with the County Planning Commission, the Airport Land Use Commission of Monterey County (ALUC), the Monterey County Public Works Dept. and gaining the approval of the Board of Supervisors, a use permit was granted and a lease signed April 1, 1986, for the site SAM presently occupies.
February 1995 brought a flood that destroyed the flying site wiping out the runway and taking most of the structures down the river. Being a resilient group and being fortunate enough to having gained an adequate treasury, the rebuild process started. Many people gave of their time and talents to make this happen and quite a few made sizable donations to the club. As a result all present members and guest can now enjoy what we consider a very good flying site.