Love Winging It
A chicken in every pot, an airplane in every hangar. (Our
apologies to Herbert Hoover.) The Rosamond Skypark subdivision
in southern Kern County is a unique residential community geared
to private-plane owners. A central runway serves as a main
street of sorts, and each home has a place to park a plane.
First there were tumbleweeds. And lots of lizards, tarantulas and rabbits. Then came the Rosamond Airport in 1947, with its dirt runway and airstrip, one house and two barracks.
Where there's an airstrip (paved in 1967 and re-topped in the late '90s), intrepid small-plane pilots are sure to follow. So in 1986, the Rosamond Skypark neighborhood was established, and the first group of about 20 buyers who wanted to live closer to an airfield moved there.
Each of the 50 or so residential properties today occupies half an acre, and each owner has a private hangar. The central runway could be dubbed the "Main Street" of the development, and taxiways are behind every backyard.
For private-plane pilots, this is nirvana. Homeowners co-own the airstrip and pay $54 per month in association dues, which helps maintain the runway and taxiways.
Some residents use their planes to commute to jobs in Los Angeles, 45 miles away as the crow flies (72 miles by car). Some use their planes strictly for recreation; they like to fly to Watsonville, Calif., or the Bay Area for what pilots call a "$100 hamburger," said Hal Holt, an agent at Rosamond Properties.
"We all have something in common," said John Wilson, a former manager of technical facilities for ABC, who commuted to Burbank for 15 years in his Cessna 182. "We all love to fly."
"The open space, warm weather and great people" drew Dee Mathews, an 80-year-old pilot and windsurfer, to Rosamond Skypark 11 years ago. "I recognize my neighbors by their planes, not their cars."
Moderately priced homes — considering the acreage and the unusual amenities — also are a lure.
The Golden Cantina attracts locals and drop-ins (from the sky) for a Mexican meal.
If all that weren't enough for aviation enthusiasts, residents of the Skypark also take short weekend jaunts and vacations together and share potluck dinners Friday nights. Some neighborhood teenagers join the Experimental Aircraft Assn. and earn Young Eagle certificates after their first flights; some residents — young and old — are members of the Civil Air Patrol, which participates in search-and-rescue operations.
Most say they don't miss the hubbub of the big city and rarely go there.
Good news, bad news
Some like it very, very hot. Those who do love Rosamond and the Skypark. Death Valley springs to mind when walking around this toasty desert enclave, where the mercury mercilessly languishes at 110 degrees in the summer.
Neighbors flock to John and Dani Wilson's pool for Dani's aquatic exercise classes most weekday mornings, chatting it up and watching the contrails from jets screeching out of nearby Edwards Air Force Base or from Cessnas taking off from the airstrip.
To those who live in Rosamond Skypark, the sound of planes taking off, nearby military exercises and regular sonic booms rattling the desert quiet are music to their ears, they say. But it's definitely not for everyone.
Longtime residents say those who dislike such noise, the heat, need higher-brow culture or prefer travel by car — instead of Cessna — to Lancaster, Bakersfield or Tehachapi for goods other than groceries probably should live elsewhere.
The Rosamond Skypark subdivision consists of only single-family residences, most with at least three bedrooms, driveways and spacious backyards. Skypark homes rarely are listed for sale; a few new homes are under construction.
There are 3,605 single-family homes in all of Rosamond. About 165 new and existing single-family homes were listed for sale on the Rosamond market earlier this week, priced from $65,000 for a mobile home to $1 million for a home under construction in the Skypark. Today, the average Rosamond sales price is closer to $319,000, realty agent Holt said.
Rosamond is part of the Southern Kern Unified School District. Children in kindergarten through fifth grade attend Rosamond and Hamilton elementary schools, which scored 751 and 697, respectively, out of a possible 1,000 on the 2005 Academic Performance Index base report. Tropico Middle School scored 684 and Rosamond High School, 652.
Historical values Residential resales for all of Rosamond ZIP Code 93560, including the Skypark:
2006*...$280,000 *Year to date
Sources: dq.cde.ca.gov; Hal Holt and Sandie Shultis, Rosamond Properties; DataQuick Information Systems; http://www.skypark.org/history.htm .