|The FAA mandated perimeter fence and road near the Ultralight barn has cut into some AirVenture property, but is making it easier to visitors to travel around the grounds. (photo by Phil Weston)
By Barbara A. Schmitz
July 28, 2013 - A new 10-foot perimeter fence and service road around Wittman Regional Airport will make it easier to get around the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds.
But it also means that some areas have less space available for parking airplanes, for camping and exhibitors.
Airport Director Peter Moll said the FAA and TSA mandated the $5.2 million in improvements for security reasons after 9/11. Ninety percent of the cost was paid for by the FAA's Airport Improvement program.
Moll said the FAA required the changes after a series of runway and deer incursions. The project also consolidated gates. Construction began in September 2012, and the major portions were completed in early July.
Mike Blombach, construction and maintenance chairman for the Vintage area, said he likes the changes. "When the show starts and all the people are out there," he said looking in the direction of the flightline, "I can still get around."
Geoff Robison, president of Vintage, said the perimeter road will not only make it easier for emergency vehicles and others to get around, but the 10-foot fence means they no longer need to police a farmer's fence that many people climbed over to gain free access to the flightline.
They did lose some space for airplane parking, Robison said, but it was minimal.
The Ultralights area wasn't as lucky, however. It lost about half of its campsites and aircraft parking spots to the new roadway and fence, according to Chairman Lee Crevier.
That leaves them with 40 campsites and 34 spots for aircraft parking. They also have 34 spots for vendors, 10 fewer than in previous years, Crevier said.
However, the changes did not impact the Ultralights area runway. "The only difference is that now they have to clear a 10-foot fence," Crevier said.
The improvements will have an impact, he said, but they will figure out how to work around it.
"This year, I'm playing it by ear. I'm waiting until a problem presents itself, and then I'll come up with the best possible solution."
Crevier has talked to his volunteers, asking them to come up with suggestions how to improve things in following years. "For every complaint, I told them I want two suggestions how to fix it," he said. "This is not how it will be next year. There are ways to better utilize our space..."
Moll said EAA worked with the airport to modify the road and fencing plans and minimize disruptions. "But the new perimeter road certainly...will take some pressure off Wittman Road.
"We knew this change would create angst for some groups," Moll said. "But in time, they will see the benefits of the new road and fence. The airport is here 365 days a year, and it is our responsibility to maintain security and keep out wildlife. It's just one of those things that airports must do."