Museum On The Move?Pacific Coast Air Museum running out of room for aircraft fleet, looks to jail garden for expansion
By BOB NORBERG, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A five-acre garden tilled by inmates at Sonoma County's low-security jail is seen as fertile ground for a new Pacific Coast Air Museum.
The aviation history group and Sonoma County airport officials have focused on the garden as the best site for a new museum to display 25 military aircraft and house a few planes and historical exhibits indoors.
"We are bursting at the seams with respect to display of any more aircraft," said Dave Pinsky, the executive director of the air museum, which is located on other airport property.
"We are totally out of space for new displays," Pinsky said. "People want to donate artifacts to us all the time. We don't have storage space, we don't have display setup space."
Jon Stout, manager of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, said the North County Detention Facility garden is at a prime location -- near the main terminal -- and a museum is an appropriate feature for people coming to the airport.
"The benefit of having the museum is a way to draw people to the airport," Stout said. "If we can work with the museum, we can create an attractive front door for the airport."
The museum, founded in 1989, sits on three acres on the southeast corner of the airport, with 25 restored aircraft, most from the Cold War era, spread over a field.
World War II aviation artifacts are displayed in a 1,250 square-foot shop where, during the war, repairs were made on some of the fabric-covered aircraft that were still in use.
The airport is a former Army airfield built during World War II to train Lockheed P-38 and Bell P-39 fighter pilots.
"It is extremely rich in military history," Pinsky said.
The proposed site is at Airport Boulevard and Ordnance Road, next to a long-term airport parking lot. It is near where Sonoma County is proposing to build, in about five years, a new 50,000 square-foot terminal at a cost of $20 million to $25 million.
The garden is on airport property that is being used by the Sheriff's Department on a short-term basis, said John Merget, the county airport's leasing manager.
Sheriff's Capt. Linda Savoy said the museum plans may mean downsizing the agriculture education program at the jail facility, but won't mean eliminating it.
There is room inside the facility for some gardens and the jail has greenhouses, she said.
The museum has 600 members and a $405,000 annual budget supported by admissions, rentals and its annual air show, which draws 20,000 to 25,000 spectators.
"The proposal has validity and would be a good opportunity for both the airport and the museum," said Supervisor Paul Kelley, whose district encompasses the airport. "Not only does the air museum's annual air show bring in tens of thousands of people to see an air show and its history, they do programs for school kids."
The museum is proposing to raise $8 million to $10 million in private donations for the new museum, which would include a single large building for historical displays, indoor space for two or three aircraft on a rotating basis and administration offices.
If it's approved and the money can be raised, the new museum would be built in about three years, Pinsky said.
The site is being recommended to the Board of Supervisors by the airport advisory commission.
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org