Our group is part of the Soaring Union of Los Angeles (SULA). We have winches and retrievers available but they are way too heavy duty for the park flyers. We have been using what started as a Dynaflite Standard Hi-Start
. The rubber was cut to 75' to suit our field. When it wore out, the rubber was replaced with 75' of Theraband green. Lately, the TheraBand has been giving us problems so we might go back to the DynaFlite
The origional chute needs to be sewn to the shrouds, otherwise it bunches up and acts as an ugly streamer.
We tell our wives that all that hi start shagging is our form of exercise and it justifies us being out two mornings of the week. It is better than hanging out at the donut shop!
As for planes, Ed Depue's Tossette (Model Builder plan) has been very popular. This was among the first generation of RC HLG's from the 70-80's. Larry Jolly's Flinger and the Midway Models Gnome are also good ones from that time. A number of guys are designing their own and this has added to the variety.
I suggest you stay with the longest hi start you can. It allows the beginners a couple mistakes before they're on the ground. A zip(short launch) is OK for the experienced guys and is very challenging but discouraging for the novice.
Because we're on a city park, we get a number of walk-ons. We encourage them to start with the Multiplex Easy Star (powered pusher). We got the local hobby shop to stock them. It gives them more air time and is very crash resistant (we've tried!) The club has a buddybox available and a 50' pole to dig the plane out of the trees.
The park glider group has been the fastest growing segment of the club. At the park, interest in the electrics has dropped off quite a bit.
If you are in the Torrance (LA suburb) area on a Tues or Thurs, drop by!