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2018-07-11 / Front Page

Rainbow Lodge Airstrip Rededicated


RAF pilots watch as one of their own takes off from the Rainbow Lodge Airstrip last Saturday, July 7. RAF pilots watch as one of their own takes off from the Rainbow Lodge Airstrip last Saturday, July 7. Last Saturday, July 7 slightly over a dozen airplanes flew in for the grand opening of the rededicated grass airstrip at Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Lake Superior, north of Newberry. John McKenna from Bozeman, MT, chairman of the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), put the event together, along with Brad Frederick, RAF state liaison for Michigan He was one of the original six “It’s been a long time to get this strip opened,” related Frederick. “I started on this seven years ago. Then a big fire (Duck Lake Fire) slowed things down a little bit… Last year we started back up again. The RAF did a fundraiser to get an extension on the Rainbow Lodge property.” Cathy and Richard Robinson, owners of the Rainbow Lodge complex, donated a piece of their property to increase the length of the airstrip. “We started the organization (RAF) over a bottle of Scotch,” claimed McKenna, “in the back country of Montana with the idea of not what we’re going to do or how we’re going to do it, but just a commitment to save the cool destinations around the country like this.”


Cathy and Richard Robinson, center, cut the ribbon held by John McKenna, left, and Brad Frederick, right, officially opening the Rainbow Lodge Airstrip. Cathy and Richard Robinson, center, cut the ribbon held by John McKenna, left, and Brad Frederick, right, officially opening the Rainbow Lodge Airstrip. The RAF organization was started by McKenna and five other people in 2003 to preserve, maintain and create airstrips for recreational access. Now there are approximately 10,000 members located in all 50 states and 22 different countries. McKenna estimates that there are about 750 backcountry airstrips on public lands located on U. S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service land. “Our organization has agreements with all three of those public agencies to maintain and be a voice for them for those airstrips.” There is also a huge amount of private airstrips around the country that are a mixture of public land and private, as is the case at Rainbow Lodge. The airstrip itself is 2,200 feet long and 75 feet wide. It includes a few bumps that will make an airplane bounce a bit, but none of the dozen pilots there at the ceremony seemed to be all that concerned. According to Frederick, the grass needs to be mowed just one or twice a year, a responsibility of Rich Robinson. Luce County Airport manager Jay Hollnagel also serves as manager of the Rainbow Lodge airstrip. As such, he is responsible for inspecting the site once a month, from May to October— the months the airstrip can be used. “It’s a boon for us,” stated Hollnagel, “as pilots have to come here (to the Luce County Airport) for fuel. There is no fuel available at Rainbow Lodge.” Hollnagel also is responsible for the security and safety of the airstrip. At the conclusion of the rededication ceremony, McKenna said he and others would return to Rainbow Lodge to experience the fishing in October.

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