Buder Park

Written by Fred Cronenwett A flying site for all disciplines Feature As seen in the September 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

Buder Park Spring Flood April 2017

Buder Park Video Tour - Control Line Flying site - April 2017

Buder Park Video Tour - Part 2 Lafayette Esquadrille CL Club

buder park
Buder Park looking west. Photo by Kevin Clark.

A flying site is something that every model airplane club works hard to secure and maintain. If you fly in the St. Louis area, you have probably flown at or have heard of Buder Park, located at the northeast corner of Highway 141 and Interstate 44. Model airplanes have flown at this site since 1960, and in the case of the Control Line (CL) circles, they have been in the same location since modelers started flying there 59 years ago.

There are only two St. Louis County parks where you can fly model airplanes: Buder Park and Antire Valley County Park. Buder Park is maintained at world-class levels by the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation, the Greater St. Louis Modeling Association (GSLMA), and the clubs that call Buder Park home. The land is owned and operated by St. Louis County Parks. GSLMA has a 10-year lease to use the land for our flying sites, which include CL, fixed-wing RC, rockets, Free Flight (FF), and drones. There are three separate areas for CL, RC, and drones so that they don’t cause a problem with the other types of model flying.

large doughnut pad
01. This picture from the early 1970s shows the large doughnut pad that has since become the square pad. Lou Matustik’s son and Charlie Reeves (R) are seen with their CL Carrier models. Photo courtesy of Lou Matustik.
cl flying site
02. The CL flying site was the first area to be developed. It had a gravel road, the fort, and a chain-link fence. Gus Vogle, who was one of the original members of the Lafayette Esquadrille CL Club, is kneeling. The person standing is unknown. Matustik photo.

GSLMA is a nonprofit, AMA chartered association that manages what needs to be improved, upgraded, repaired, or replaced at the model airplane flying sites. The typical board positions are as with any club, but we have representatives from each club to vote on proposed items before spending any GSLMA money. Each club gets one vote and all positions, including board positions, are voluntary.

St. Louis County is responsible for mowing the grass, providing manpower for some of the improvements, and maintaining equipment such as the picnic tables and the pavilions. GSLMA is responsible for funding and providing manpower to make other improvements and upgrades to the flying site.

In some cases, GSLMA hires outside contractors. When it came time for paving, St. Louis County did that work, but GSLMA paid for the materials. The decision to use an outside contractor or the St. Louis County Parks department is on a case-by-case basis. Different rules apply when an outside contractor is used versus having work done on a volunteer basis by club members.

Some projects take months or years to complete because they require St. Louis County manpower, equipment, or approval. Other projects receive approval because GSLMA can fund the job and the local clubs provide labor, but the work must be done within the county’s guidelines.

Meramec River

North of Buder Park is the Meramec River. When it rains a lot, the river rises and the park floods. In the six years that I have lived in St. Louis, it has flooded twice, leaving more than 16 feet of water above the CL circles, which is one of the highest spots in the park. The park survived both of these floods and St. Louis County, GSLMA, and the clubs cleaned up everything so that we could fly again. Because of the flooding risk, no electric power is available at Buder Park.

GSLMA officers monitor the river level and know when it’s time to secure things and get certain items out of the park so that they don’t float away. Although the metal picnic tables require a two-man lift, floodwaters can float them away.

History of the Park

In 1960, a number of model airplane clubs were looking for permanent flying sites. They were having trouble with their current flying sites because of safety and noise problems. Even today, that is a major obstacle to overcome.

The superintendent of recreation in St. Louis County was Wayne Kennedy. He had a request from the Manchester Double Cola Model Airplane Club for a flying site. Wayne contacted the other CL clubs and discovered that several of them were also looking for flying sites. Wayne proposed that all of the clubs stop flying at their current locations and make Buder Park a dedicated model airplane flying site.

Buder Park was selected because the area was bounded by a highway, train tracks, and a river, so noise would not be a problem. The other part of the deal was that current club flying sites would be off limits for flying. Wayne made it clear that no taxpayer money would be spent on a special interest venture unless the clubs showed sufficient interest in doing some of the work themselves and helping pay for it.

The six clubs worked together and were able to show the county that there was a desire and interest to develop the flying site. Based upon this response, the county moved forward with the project. The six clubs became known as GSLMA and were responsible for organizing the funding and supplying volunteer manpower to do some of the work, while the county supplied the rest.

lafayette esquadrille
03. In June 2018, the Lafayette Esquadrille helped an out-of-town group organize a CL Carrier contest.
a national model aviation day
04. A National Model Aviation Day celebration was hosted by the St. Louis Aeropilots in 2018. The pavilion offers a respite from heat, sun, and rain.
engine runup stands
05. This photo, taken in December 2018, shows the engine runup stands. GSLMA paid for the materials to have them repaired and built four new ones.
cl speed circle fence
06. The top of the CL Speed circle fence and the roof of the CL pavilion can be seen in this April 2017 flood picture. It shows just how high the water got.
fpv drones are off to the races
FPV drones are off to the races. Clark photo.
fpv drone area
The FPV drone area has been set up for racing with obstacles.


After all of the improvements were completed in 1960 using donations from pilots, clubs, local hobby dealers, and distributers, the county was so impressed that it made plans for more work to take place in 1961.

Some of the labor, such as rolling the CL circles, was performed by county employees using county equipment, but planting trees and pouring cement were completed by the pilots. I wish the original group that got Buder Park started in 1960 could see what it looks like today and how it has improved throughout the years.


GSLMA was created so that there would be one voice to work with the St. Louis County Parks department instead of multiple clubs and groups. GSLMA is a nonprofit advisory group for the development and supervision of the park for the model airplane flying sites.

With a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and historian, we manage the day-to-day business of keeping Buder Park in good working shape for all of the aeromodeling disciplines. The park also provides public soccer and baseball facilities.

GSLMA continues to improve and maintain Buder Park, using the same principles that the six clubs used in 1960. We raise money to fund improvements and do basic repairs. We are still the one voice that the St. Louis County Parks department listens to for guidance.

The GSLMA officers and the club representatives look for items that need to be repaired or upgraded. One thing that pilots can relate to is the condition of the runway or paved CL circle. The RC runway was repaved in 2007 or 2008, and the CL square pad was repaved in 2017. The square pad was first paved in approximately 1990 when the large doughnut circle was removed.

Cracks in the RC runway, taxiways, and other asphalt CL circles were repaired, filled, and sealed in 2017. The paving was not cheap, but the investment was worth the money, time, and effort.

The $30 Buder Park pass that pilots purchase goes into the GSLMA account and the money is used to improve and maintain the flying site. The rules state that RC pilots must have an FAA UAS drone registration to fly at Buder Park. The CL community does not have to have an FAA UAS drone registration card. All pilots must have an AMA membership to fly

More than 200 Buder Park passes allows GSLMA to fund a variety of improvements, but we do have to save up for the more expensive items. Nearly $700 was spent to repair and build four new engine run-up stands in 2018. In 2017, approximately $20,000 was spent to repave the CL square pad and repair and seal the cracks in the RC runway and other paved surfaces.

GSLMA will pay for new roofing materials in 2019 for the RC pavilion. This will cost at least $4,000, but because of the number of members with a park pass, we can easily do this work and still have money in reserve. The paved surfaces will be repaired and sealed in 2019 to keep the surfaces in good condition.

GSLMA keeps enough in the bank to cover major problems or to fix or replace things. Cleaning up after a major flood is one of those things. GSLMA also pays for smaller items such as the porta-potty in the RC area.

Smaller improvements, such as fixing the pilot center pads for the CL Carrier circle by pouring a new concrete pad, were done by the Lafayette Esquadrille CL Club (formerly the Manchester Double Cola Model Airplane Club). The cost was $500 for the materials and the labor was done by volunteers.

We also pull out our yard equipment, edgers, blowers, and brooms, to clean up certain areas of the park for contests. After this kind of work is done, the park looks really good.

You can read the September 1961 American Modeler article, "Need Flying Site Help," on the GSLMA website, listed in "Sources." Some of the information presented here came from that article.

CL Flying Site

There are four active CL circles. If you include the three CL Combat circles, there are seven at Buder Park. Our main flying circle is the square pad because it is 150 × 150-foot asphalt that was repaved in 2017. The circle can be used for any model with 70-foot or shorter lines. The square pad was a doughnut shape at one point in the 1970s but was paved into the square pad. It’s hard to imagine how many flights have been flown at this one location since the 1960s.

There is a doughnut circle on the east side of the square pad that has a paved center for the pilot and a round flying circle with grass in between. The grass needs to be kept short so that it does not snag any flying lines during takeoff or landing.

A permanent Carrier deck is on the west side of the square pad, with the covered pavilion a few steps away. Next to that is the CL Speed circle that has a 12-foot safety fence. If for any reason a flying line should break, the model will hit the fence and break apart. There are only two permanently enclosed CL Speed circles in the US—one is at Whittier Narrows near Los Angeles, and the other is at Buder Park.

A paved CL circle is not that common, and to find one that is as flat and smooth as this one is amazing. This flying site used to host six or more CL contests by the Lafayette Esquadrille CL Club. The club can host CL Speed, Carrier, Aerobatics, Scale, and other fun-fly-type events without any problems.

RC Flying Site

The RC flying site has two 33 × 350-foot paved runways, a pit area, and lots of engine run-up stands. There is also a pavilion that offers shelter from the sun, heat, or rain. With a grill and lots of room, large fun-flys and contests can be flown at the site.

You can’t fly over the baseball and soccer fields to the north of the runway, so you have to keep a tight flight pattern. Larger jets or Giant Scale models that require a longer runway will have a hard time flying at this location because of the no-fly zones in the park, but for some models, the area is large enough. The original drawings for the RC runway were drawn up in 1971.

The fixed-wing RC area is home to the St. Louis Aeropilots club. The Aeropilots hosted National Model Aviation Day celebrations in 2018 and 2019.


On the west side of the park, an area has been set aside for FPV drones and was used extensively for drone racing in 2018. Drones have priority in this designated area and are welcomed in Buder Park.

The St. Louis Whirlybirds helicopter club has hosted successful FPV drone races at Buder Park. The members set up the racecourse and do not cause any problems with other aeromodeling disciplines.


East of the RC runway is the spot for launching rockets. Because the rockets and RC airplanes share the same airspace, rocket fliers have to make sure that the sky is clear of any full-scale aircraft flying overhead or RC models before they can launch. The larger class of rockets that reach higher altitudes cannot be flown at Buder Park.

rockets are launched
Rockets are launched in the area east of the RC runway.

The National Association of Rocketry (NAR) has similar safety rules to the AMA when launching rockets in any area.


Keeping a flying site in good shape takes time and money, and Buder Park is no different. The combined efforts of the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation department, GSLMA, the local model clubs, and the pilots who fly there, make it possible. If the participants volunteer even a small amount of time to help clean up or build something in the park, it adds up. The money raised by the Buder Park pass pays for items that people use anytime they fly.

If you fly on county-owned land, consider starting a nonprofit group to raise money to maintain and improve the flying site. Approach your county parks department with a proposal to help maintain the flying site. It will be a lot of work and you will have less time to spend flying, but in the end, the flying site will be better. It will take several years to get it going then you have to maintain it year after year, as GLSMA has done since 1960.

lou matustik watches the cl carrier pilots
Lou Matustik watches the CL Carrier pilots get ready to fly. The paved 150 × 150-foot square pad can be seen in the background.

County and state budgets do not have money to make improvements at parks that benefit model airplanes, so we have to raise the money ourselves. The combined efforts of a large number of people can raise money and provide enough volunteer manpower to get it done. If clubs that want to fly at these sites don’t step forward to help pay for some of the improvements and are unwilling to do some of the work, the county won’t be willing to help.

Every time I go to Buder Park and fly, I appreciate the facility. I have logged 100-plus hours of volunteer time at the RC and CL sites in the park, making it a better place to fly.


GSLMA www.gslma.com

NAR www.nar.org

Lafayette Esquadrille CL Club


St. Louis Radio Control Flying Association


St. Louis Aeropilots


St. Louis Whirlybirds


Spirits of St Louis R/C Flying Club


Thermaleers Free Flight Club


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The Sort Pilots Flew T/C at Buder Park For Many Years Members of GLSMA. Can’t Figure Why The Club is Not Recognised

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