Paragliding Club Removes Public Lands from Site List for Members
• Pilot in Bluffs Crash Urges Continued Use of Park Sites in Use for Years
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
The Malibu Paragliding Club has revamped its website, removing references to Malibu Bluffs Park and Corral Canyon public parkland as among the club’s “registered and insured” sites that are available for launching and landing private paragliding equipment.
The deletion was requested by Joseph Edmiston, the executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, following two recent paraglider accidents—one of them fatal—in the Malibu area.
MPC appears to have removed a link to a commercial paraglider tandem ride and lessons operation that was also contacted by Edmiston and told its use of parkland was unauthorized.
Edmiston has asked the MPC about the ostensible scouring of an area of Malibu Bluffs Park for a launch site. Club officials did not respond to the query, but Claude Fiset, the owner of the Ojai-based commercial operation, conjectures that “a December fire triggered by a tourist BBQ-ing [may have] cleared a large part of the field,” then added that “an instructor from Santa Barbara cleared the area [noting that he is] not sure why, as [he has] never seen him use that area.”
Paragliders have openly used local sites, especially Malibu Bluffs Park, to launch and land for years, and some residents are now asking why public agencies did not take action until the two accidents.
That’s why the pilot in the first mishap on July 16 that sparked a small brushfire at Bluffs Park, asks why anyone “would want to shut down the launch sites. Pilots and Malibu people have been enjoying paragliding for years here.”
Joe Castaldo added, “Paragliding has not hurt anyone on the ground. PG is a national sport around the world with millions of pilots in meets and competitions, but here in the U.S. there are less than 10,000 due to needless restrictions on PG and other sports.”
Castaldo’s description of his July equipment fire is included in this week’s Letter to the Editor section.
In an earlier email, Jai Pal Khalsa, the president of the Malibu Paragliding Club, contends that paraglider use is as valid as any other public use of parklands.
He said, “The freedom of our club members to soar through the air is a legal and valid recreational use like any other recreational use, but places no burden on the land below.”
Khalsa said, “Freedom to recreational use of public lands, while preserving the natural and native environments, should be protected for all. Do [site regulators] propose a Nanny state in which government tells us what we can and can’t do?”
Paragliding critics, however, raise local trespass issues and voice concern about public endangerment and the potential for more accidents, if there is no regulation of PG activities on public parkland.