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Where to Launch, Locally?

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eduncan911

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How do I find a local launch site for low-powered rockets for ~100-500 feet? Think Estes starter rockets on A and B class motors.

Up here in NY Dutchess County, I am finding it extremely difficult to obtain permission from anyone. Schools, parking lots, etc.

The nearest local NAR club that has an active webpage is 4+ hours away!

/TL;DR

Back in the mid-80s, I recall walking down to the local High School and launching a rocket off the backup non-maintained football field. The groundskeeper came out and ran me off, saying I'd hurt the grass. My Estes Shuttle remained dormant for a few years, until Shop Class let us build rockets and fly them - I brought in the shuttle, and it did not eject in time - crashing landing and destroying the model.

Skip ahead 30+ years....

Now my 5 year old daughter has caught the model rocket bug. We've built 2 so far and she's loving it.

I called a local park's offices and left a message - no one responded all week. I drove into a local Park and asked to speak to a manager or someone else about the park policies. The ones I spoke to said, "Yes, model rockets should be fine. Just be safe and don't do it around others." So we flew 6 times and went home.

The next day I call back about my model rocket message I left earlier - they said they "do NOT allow model rockets. So, um, yeah sorry about that."

Talking with the local hobby store, they said they have launched them from local High School football fields in the past (10 years ago, don't launch any more they say). I've driven into 3 local High Schools, and 2 of them said NO while the other was just closed off from public access.

Talking with a local private school that has "Rocket Camp" during the summer, i was told they go down to another local park to launch them. That park they are talking about is tiny... Just 2 Junior League baseball fields. The "Rocket Camp" is for 5 to 10 year olds - so the rockets are small, and 1/2A-powered.

Using Google Maps I found a huge unattended field, around 100 acres of high grass except for a 2x football field sized area. When zooming in, I can see Model Airplanes on Google Maps! So I went driving by there and when driving onto the private road, I saw the house the land was registered to. I knocked on the door and left a message; no response in two weeks.

Where do I go?!?

The next time we move, I think I am know what I am looking for...
 
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blackbrandt

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Google maps is your best bet. Ask around. Also have a copy of the NAR safety code and a rocket in hand so they can see what you are doing.
 

Bat-mite

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I would start by calling a fire marshal. Find out exactly what the laws are for your state, and then look for a state park with reasonable facilities.

The other way to go about it is to simply go to an unattended field and launch until someone tells you not to. Local sports fields, when no games or practices are going on, are a good place. I have used a community sports field near a local library in the offseason, when no one is out there. I also called the fire marshal and found out that is no prohibition against store-bought, class 1, LPR rockets build without modifications. IOW, he said that if you go to a hobby store and buy a kit, and build it without modifications, and use store-bought motors, then you can launch it anywhere that someone will allow you to.

One time we were at the local sports field, and while we were there, a rugby league came and started to set up their goalposts and such. They let us launch a couple more times, and then we packed up and called it a day. But I can guarantee you that if I had called the Rec-N-Parks people and asked if I could launch on the field prior to the rugby game, they would have said no, hands down.

Other crazy ideas: 1)get a grant and start your own NAR section. They may be able to help you contact and win over a landowner better than you could on your own.

2) start an elementary or middle school rocket club, and get permission to launch at the school.

Good luck!
 

Bat-mite

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Oh, yeah, you said you found an unmowed field and didn't get any response. Perhaps, instead of asking if you could launch there, you could try again to contact them and offer to mow the ground in exchange for permission to launch there once a month, or something. And follow blackbrandt's advice -- if they agree to meet with you, take the NAR safety code, and perhaps even a copy of NFPA1127. Even if there is no NAR section near you, joining for $60 a year gets you liability insurance. You can then show the insurance certificate to the landowner.
 

samb

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It's the challenge of our times I guess. While you continue your search, I would reconsider the rocket camp field. You can substitute 5 or 6 feet of crepe paper streamer for the recovery device in an Alpha and other similar sized rockets. Or reef the chute. Tape the shroudlines together halfway or more up towards the canopy, temporarily reducing the size of the open parachute. Try early morning or late afternoon launches, whenever the winds are calmer. Try some saucers like the Estes Blenders http://www.estesrockets.com/rockets/kits/003233-blenderstm

Almost forgot. Bring some super glue (CA) for the occasional busted fin. I like the gel type for field repairs 'cause it doesn't go everywhere when I open the cap. And I alway have the poor man's accelerator handy, a little hot air from my big mouth ! :)
 
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Buckeye

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The other way to go about it is to simply go to an unattended field and launch until someone tells you not to.
+1. The more you go around asking questions, the more rejections you will receive. Just start flying. If you have a kid with you, then cops and officials are likely to cut you some slack. Maybe you'll get a few launches in before you get kicked out. Go early morning, late evening, or in offseason.

Forget about any sports field on weekends, especially during Spring and Fall. It will be overrun with over-coached rug rats and nervous parents. I know. I was a Soccer Dad for 10 years. Your best bet at the sports field is in the middle of winter or on a Thursday afternoon in July with temps in the 90's (like I did last week).

Other places I have flown:

  • Old landfill owned by the city (now a golf course)
  • A new subdivision under construction that was left incomplete during the 2007-2009 recession years (now complete)
  • County park grassy field. Never had a problem until recently, when the ranger pointed to an obscure rule about unmanned aircraft buried on page 10 of the park regulations.

I'll probably get flamed for this response. Sorry to be cynical, but in this case it is easier to beg for forgiveness...especially just for a couple A and B motor flights with your little daughter. Good luck!
 

cbrarick

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How do I find a local launch site for low-powered rockets for ~100-500 feet? Think Estes starter rockets on A and B class motors.

Up here in NY Dutchess County, I am finding it extremely difficult to obtain permission from anyone. Schools, parking lots, etc.
OK, the heck with a NAR Club. You're not far from METRA which is in Pine Island, NY, a stone's throw away from you in Orange County. We're talking big farm, miles of recovery room, M's fly there.
Next launch is first weekend in August. http://metrarocketclub.org/

We also have venders: Estes, Aerotech, CTI and Loki can all be bought on the field.
Lloyds provides us with lots of good food and the BEST lemonade in the US -- "If it's not Lloyds, it's not Lemonade!"
 

KenECoyote

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+1 to METRA!
There's also a low power rack as well as a great group of people who can help out with anything you need. :cheers:
 

eduncan911

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Google maps is your best bet. Ask around. Also have a copy of the NAR safety code and a rocket in hand so they can see what you are doing.
This is great advice.


The other way to go about it is to simply go to an unattended field and launch until someone tells you not to. Local sports fields, when no games or practices are going on, are a good place.
+1. The more you go around asking questions, the more rejections you will receive. Just start flying. If you have a kid with you, then cops and officials are likely to cut you some slack. Maybe you'll get a few launches in before you get kicked out. Go early morning, late evening, or in offseason.

Other places I have flown:

  • Old landfill owned by the city (now a golf course)
  • A new subdivision under construction that was left incomplete during the 2007-2009 recession years (now complete)
  • County park grassy field. Never had a problem until recently, when the ranger pointed to an obscure rule about unmanned aircraft buried on page 10 of the park regulations.
This is what I've done so far. But, would like to avoid it confrontations. Getting actual permission goes a long way.

It doesn't look good to a 5 year old when the police show up to say, "No" or "You can't be here" to her father.

Or worse yet, a disgruntled employee/landowner yelling at you to leave and her turning to tears and crying. Already happened to us before when we were hiking in a park and apparently strayed onto a neighboring private property... He was really really mean, regardless of the 4 year old next to me. She got really scared and crying.

Having to explain privilege and NIMBY are kind of advance topics at her age. (It will confuse her to as to why I took her there to begin with).


Other crazy ideas: 1)get a grant and start your own NAR section. They may be able to help you contact and win over a landowner better than you could on your own.

2) start an elementary or middle school rocket club, and get permission to launch at the school.
If only I had the time, I would absolutely love that!


It's the challenge of our times I guess. While you continue your search, I would reconsider the rocket camp field. You can substitute 5 or 6 feet of crepe paper streamer for the recovery device in an Alpha and other similar sized rockets. Or reef the chute. Tape the shroudlines together halfway or more up towards the canopy, temporarily reducing the size of the open parachute. Try early morning or late afternoon launches, whenever the winds are calmer. Try some saucers like the Estes Blenders http://www.estesrockets.com/rockets/kits/003233-blenderstm
WIll consider it. Though, the rocket we just completed would be a shame if it came down too fast and broke - spent a lot of time "making it look pretty" to match her color scheme.

Almost forgot. Bring some super glue (CA) for the occasional busted fin. I like the gel type for field repairs 'cause it doesn't go everywhere when I open the cap. And I alway have the poor man's accelerator handy, a little hot air from my big mouth ! :)
Yep, I remember this from 30+ years ago... Especially with the SR-71 Blackbird and Mercury Redstone I had, that broke on e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e landing.


OK, the heck with a NAR Club. You're not far from METRA which is in Pine Island, NY, a stone's throw away from you in Orange County. We're talking big farm, miles of recovery room, M's fly there.
Next launch is first weekend in August. http://metrarocketclub.org/

We also have venders: Estes, Aerotech, CTI and Loki can all be bought on the field.
Lloyds provides us with lots of good food and the BEST lemonade in the US -- "If it's not Lloyds, it's not Lemonade!"
+1 to METRA!There's also a low power rack as well as a great group of people who can help out with anything you need. :cheers:
I just found the thread here this morning! Yes, I found METRA and another over in CT. METRA seems the closes (just over an hour away).

Was hoping on something more local, easy to hop into the mini-van with some rockets, pop off a few and go grab lunch. But taking her to a real meetup may entice her to build bigger and badder versions. :)
 
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Bat-mite

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I drive my family about an hour to MDRA launches once a month. When we started with small rockets, I remember the days when we would drive from school to sports field to neighborhood trying to find a place to launch. By the time we finally did, we could have driven to the club.

May I at least recommend going to one METRA launch to see if you like it? You might be so blown away that you will start to schedule your life around it. :wink: But at least you will be able to make an informed decision on whether or not it is worth the drive for you.

While I'm here, here's a little story for you. Near where I work, there is a mowed field alongside a road that I could never figure out who owned or what it was for. I had just finished building my Aerotech G-Force, which was the biggest thing I had built to date. I had a G80-7T to put in it, and a guy at work said he wanted to see it launch.

So one day at lunch time, we drove over to the field and started to set up. Lo and behold, two guys in a truck pulled up and said that we were trespassing and needed to leave. We, of course, agreed, but said that we were really hoping to launch this rocket. They looked interested and asked us how long it would take.

"Just a few minutes," I said. So they said go ahead, but then you have to leave and not come back. We were thrilled.

But I could not get the motor to go into the MMT. New to MPR back then, I didn't know that I could just peel the label off. We tried and tried, realizing the guys were probably ricking their jobs to let us continue, but we could not get the motor in.

So we smiled humbly, thanked them, told them something was wrong and we had to be going. :( My poor workmate never did get to see it launch.
 

KenECoyote

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I just found the thread here this morning! Yes, I found METRA and another over in CT. METRA seems the closes (just over an hour away).

Was hoping on something more local, easy to hop into the mini-van with some rockets, pop off a few and go grab lunch. But taking her to a real meetup may entice her to build bigger and badder versions. :)
Hey Eric,

Unfortunately we now live in a post 9/11 age where we even launching at a park can end up being a problem. I was invited to launch at a friend's park the next state over and before I launched, I asked him what were the chances we'd get in trouble or the police would stop by...he replied "zero to minus 10" since others also launch there regularly. I then launched my TLP Maverick and upon returning towards the pad with it, a police cruiser rolled up and asked me what I was doing. I explained and he said that someone called in that they heard gunshots! :eek: He said it was fine for me to continue, but that kind of ended the launching.

Given all the complications and such to launch locally, I figure it's easier to just prep and build my rockets during the month and launch at the club where it's sanctioned, insured, supportive, informative, cool to watch other rockets, there's a porta-potty, you can buy food & drink (props to Llyod!) and stuff such as motors & kits (props to Rick!) and chutes (props to Teddy at OBH!).

Feel free to PM me (or Rick) if you need help or any other information. :)
 

cbrarick

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I just found the thread here this morning! Yes, I found METRA and another over in CT. METRA seems the closes (just over an hour away).

Was hoping on something more local, easy to hop into the mini-van with some rockets, pop off a few and go grab lunch. But taking her to a real meetup may entice her to build bigger and badder versions. :)
The one in CT is called CATO. It's focus is on family-friendly. They launch A-I motors on a 5/8 mile square in open space. I'm the local vendor there so it's estes, aerotech and CTI. I also hold the waiver...they run a grill, dogs and burgers.
Probably 90 minutes from you. Search "Durham Fair Grounds" and the launch location is literally just below.
 

lcorinth

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When I started launching rockets a couple years ago, in Bloomington, Indiana, I found a large park and just started going there. But I didn't stop there. I told everyone I knew I had gotten into this hobby, trying to spread the word. This included police and firefighters I was friendly with, as they were customers of mine at work (we made their coffee - they were glad to see me). I'd show them pictures and video, and tell them lots about it - including about the amazing near-60-year safety record. A couple of the cops said, "Hey, I used to do that as a kid."

Now, I was lucky, because back there, I also had connections to the Deputy Mayor and a number of other prominent people in the city. It's a small city.

Now that I live in Boston, I don't know any of these people, and I'm not sure where to do a casual, non-club launch, but I'm trying.

If you live in a smaller city, I'd advise talking up the hobby like I did. If you can get some people of influence involved - especially cops and firefighters, maybe even a city council person if you have any connections to any of these people (you'd be surprised the connections you have if you ask a few friends), then not only may you get some leniency if you're ever questioned, but you may stir up some enthusiasm in your town to get a little club going. You could become a minor celebrity, known in town as "that rocket guy." Worked for me.
 

Onebadhawk

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+1 on METRA..
If you go to a launch not only will you not regret it
but you'll be back month after month guaranteed..

Rick,,
Your a seriously nice man...
My greatest compliments...
( and thanks ).....

Teddy
 

Buckeye

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Was hoping on something more local, easy to hop into the mini-van with some rockets, pop off a few and go grab lunch.
This gets to my earlier point. Club launches are great (I participate in several), but probably not what you had in mind for a couple A motor flights with your kid. Drive over an hour to the middle of nowhere, register, fill out flight card, wait for the range to open, wait for the range to close, wait in the launch queue, some stranger presses the button to launch your Estes Alpha, and then wait to retrieve it. If you are unlucky and get a misfire, you repeat the process all over again. Lots of standing around and not launching is common at club events - that's just the way it is. Kind of a buzz kill for a kid's first rocket, unless she is super patient. Sure, you can enjoy everybody else's rockets, but this this is supposed to be her thing, right?

Find that soccer field and have your own fun! At least for now. :2:
 
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