If it’s controlled by a remote – and isn’t a TV – it’s likely welcomed at Blanton Park, home to the Port St. Lucie RC Hobby Group.
Planes, cars, airboats or quads (aka drones) – there’s a place for them. “We’re pretty proud of our property,” group president Jack Ferland said while walking the grounds over the weekend. Two years ago, the Port St. Lucie City Council approved a lease for the hobbyists to use Blanton Park, so long as certain conditions were met.
In that time, the group has cleared much of the Brazilian pepper trees from the land, planted 14 Royal Poinciana trees, and crafted three distinct areas for the various remote-controlled vehicles members bring out.
There’s a racetrack of hairpin turns and jumps for four-wheeled vehicles. A small lake is ideal for R.C. boats. There’s a smooth, Bermuda grass runway for the planes. And a wide-open area where multirotor aerial vehicles (the group calls them quads; the public would identify them as drones) can buzz about, zooming high to give their operators a bird’s-eye view via onboard cameras. The woods on the property are a great place to hone quad-flying skills, ensuring a different experience every time.
“We have, arguably, the largest playground in Florida,” said quad operator Patrick Lyons. Fellow operator Rich Collier concurred, noting that he’s flown his custom-built quads around the country.
“I’ve flown in more states than most people visit in their life,” Collier said. Blanton Park is by far the best R.C.-dedicated park, he added.
The park is open daily from dawn to dusk, but only when a member is on site. Only members are able to open the gate to the park. That said, visitors and spectators are welcome on the property when members are present.
At just two years old, the club already boasts a membership of 135 people, whose ages range from 5 to 85, Ferland said. So long as children are supervised by their parents or guardians, they are welcome to be members. “It’s fun,” said Brian Stadtler. “I come nearly every day.”
When asked what the appeal is that brings him out daily, he pointed to Rich Gabaldon’s R.C. car – “Running him over!”
“He’s jesting,” Rich Gabaldon said.
Stadtler said, as a retiree, it gives him something to do. The only thing that could make it better would be getting more children involved. “Kids are a lot of fun when they come,” he said.
The R.C. car track is currently in its third configuration. None of the pieces are fixed permanently and all can be easily moved around to keep the track from getting stale.
Fellow member Mickey “The Beast” Sabol designed this latest track. The crew seems happy with it – for now.
Gabaldon said he’s always the first in line to say that the city taxes its residents too much, but the pain is eased a bit given the City Council approving their use of the park. “The city allowing us to do this is great,” he said.
In March 2017, the council voted unanimously to approve a 5-year lease for the club at Blanton Park. The club pays a $1/month lease to the city. If all continues to go well at the park, the council and club have the option to renew the lease for two additional 5-year terms, for a total of 15 years.
All the remote-controlled vehicles are electric and battery-operated. No gas vehicles are allowed. The club maintains the property, mowing when needed. It also is required to provide an ADA compliant portable restroom, which is available to all visiting the park. Ferland and the members have gone a step further, providing secured shade structures for R.C. operators and spectators as well as a solar-powered battery charging station.
City Electric Supply donated some of the equipment needed to create the charging station, Ferland said. Other members and businesses have donated materials for other projects around the property, including Mark Kemp, of M&J Pavers and Stone, who provided the pavers that serve as an even flooring for the airplane area.
He flies a PT-17 bi-plane, complete with a pilot named “Crash.” While flying is the “icing on the cake” for Kemp, the real joy comes from building and assembling the planes.
The new planes only take a couple of hours to put together and are much more durable than the older ones.
Ferland said the club always welcomes new members of all skill levels. They need not be expert drivers or pilots. He said many, if not all, of the members are willing to talk to budding enthusiasts about their vehicles, and how to go about building your own. Some might even be willing to loan out one of their training vehicles and teach you the ropes, Ferland said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Port St. Lucie RC Hobby Group is encouraged to visit the club’s website, www.PSLRCHobbyGroup.com or email email@example.com.