Wiregrass Growth and Fort Rucker Land Use

By: Patrick Claybon Email
By: Patrick Claybon Email

In the time since the construction of the 64,000-acre installation of Fort Rucker, encroachment of the surrounding community has become more of a problem.

Now, military officials and local leaders are looking for solutions.

Coffee County Commissioner J.L. Weeks said, “I hear helicopters; I hear guns shooting; to me it's sweet music, it sounds like a good defense system, it sounds like jobs."

Sweet music is not all that comes from Fort Rucker. That's why local leaders and land owners and those with the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission started preliminary proceedings in the Department of Defenses Joint Land Use Program on Tuesday morning.

The meeting explained what the next 14 or so months will cover in finding solutions to encroachment as well as the past success of the program.

The purpose of the Joint Land Use Program is not to determine the fate of places that have encroached near facilities, but to learn how Fort Rucker can cater to them, and learn how the community can avoid conflicts as the Wiregrass continues to grow.

The Department of Defense presented a video of the programs Tuesday. At one time, the DOD sponsored half the costs for the analysis and this time around they are putting up 90% of the bill.

This DOD handout showed the many ways the community and the base can encroach on each other.

Thomas Solomon, the director of SEARP & DC said, "They did not do a joint land use study, did not do comprehensive land use planning in Kentucky and therefore, they lost their training mission for armor to Fort Benning. That's just a good example of what can happen here."

Once the study is completed in October of 2008, it's up to local governments to decide whether or not the suggestions are implemented.

Fort Rucker employs nearly 20,000 area residents and generates about $1-billion dollars in the Wiregrass economy each year.

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