History of MPI

The Mt. Bullion County Airport (Mariposa-Yosemite) was created in 1935 using WPA or other federal funding.  This was one of a number of depression projects in the county.  Dedication was in 1937 with most of the county officials present.  The first airmail arrived in 1938, Ed Nichols of Merced, later Mariposa County, was the pilot.  Frank Haldeman, Snelling Postmaster received the mail.  The county was charged with maintaining the airport but little was done during WWII except it was used for emergency landings for Castle Air Force Base.  Local historian Leroy Radanovich says, “I recall a B17 landing there that had to be removed by truck”.

The original airport consisted of a runway that ran uphill to the North, a terminal building with glass front facing west, a residence, and at least two open front hangars side by side west of the runway, facing south.  Little use was made of the airport until after WWII.  There were at least two other private runways on ranches nearby.  A group of veterans of the Air Corp or Navy formed a club that tried to promote the airport in an attempt to encourage the county to make improvements.  World renowned aviator and local businessman Gordon Greenamyer was instrumental.  A few planes were stored there from time to time.  John Hill of Mt. Bullion used one of the hangars to repair airplanes.

Around 1970, Supervisor Herb Davis helped the county receive a FAA grant for improvements which included a new runway which had a dip in the middle, changing the heading to some degree and adding more length.  Hangars were built and the portable terminal building added which reportedly came from a real estate development company in the La Grange area and was transported to its current location in at least two pieces.  The airport was managed through special districts, as there was no public works as yet.  During the 1980’s and 90’s another grant was received for additional hangars, taxi ways and upgraded runway lighting.

Over the years various concessionaires ran the airport providing some income to the county.  The problem was that the operation always marginal at best and starting with Phil Rauch in the 1960’s, through Bud Gresham, Mazzie Air Service of Fresno an Turk Turley, the contract was not satisfactory unless other activities took place.  Finally when Turley did not renew, the public works (after consolidation) tried to operate but could not make it pay.  In the late 90’s and early 2000’s the planning department redrafted the County General Plan which contained elements for Economic Development.  It was suggested that the airport be expanded to include a light industrial park.  While the General Plan was adopted the economic development element has not been implemented.

By,

Leroy Radanovich

Mariposa Historian