Up in the Air

A Parker developer is building a dream community for pilots. Neighbors are doing everything they can to keep it grounded.

Vinton and his supporters shot back, saying that the crash was the strip's first in decades. But by that time, the commission was convinced that the "social issues," as one commissioner put it, between the two parties were too great for the project to be approved. They ordered Vinton to meet with his challengers and draft a compromise.

The covenant that followed ensured that pilots wouldn't fly at night. Homeowners would have no more than two aircraft each. And no strangers — only invited guests — could use the airpark's runway in addition to those who lived there.

All was calm until the evening of August 20, when Vinton's brother rammed his biplane into the wheel of a steamroller after losing power at thirty feet, says Vinton. His brother knocked into the roller to avoid skidding into the oncoming traffic on nearby Delbert Road.

Pete Vinton is building a fly-in neighborhood near Parker.
Anthony Camera
Pete Vinton is building a fly-in neighborhood near Parker.

"The way I look at it, it's like you have a bunch of guys with sports cars," says Roger Long, who lives across the road from Rocky Mountain Airpark. "And no matter what they tell you, it's the testosterone driving them. The next one will probably be a fireball."

Since the latest crash — which sent Vinton's brother to the hospital with a small cut on his arm — Long and other neighbors have renewed their calls to close down the airpark. But Elbert County officials say there's little that he or anyone else can do to stop the development, short of buying the property.

In spite of the neighborhood ire, Vinton is plowing ahead with his project. When it's completed, the airpark will be the only fly-in community in Colorado that emulates the "golden age of aviation," in Vinton's words. That is to say, the airstrip will be made of grass, and most planes on the property will be vintage aircrafts, true to Everitt's day. Vinton even named one corner of the neighborhood Kitty Hawk Hills, after the North Carolina locale from which Wilbur and Orville Wright first ascended.

Though he can't afford to live at Rocky Mountain Airpark himself (ten-acre lots go for $300,000 to $400,000 apiece, not including homebuilding costs), Vinton says he has sold eight lots, a few of them to commercial airline pilots.

Bob McSpadden is one such individual. The United Airlines pilot moved to Rocky Mountain Airpark with his wife, Beth — the two met when she was a flight attendant — after deciding the Parker area was perfect for their three daughters. Though he doesn't own a plane, McSpadden plans to buy one after the family finishes building their new home.

"The airpark is a big chunk of icing on the cake," he says.

As the first family to put roots in the airpark, the McSpaddens have witnessed the fury that surrounds the project. Beth often wonders if her daughters will make friends in the divided neighborhood.

"You are not sure who is mad at you living here or not," she says. "We want them to know we are just people."

But soon, Rocky Mountain Airpark will be filled with families just like them. People who will take a Sunday off, step into their planes and fly right over their neighbors' heads.

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