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EAA 1439, EAA Work to Save Grass Runway

Aerial view of Viroqua Municipal Airport (Y51)  Credit: Fltplan.com

May 20, 2010 — A coordinated effort by EAA, Chapter 1439, the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, and the FAA has saved the grass runway at the Viroqua Municipal Airport (Y51) in the hills of western Wisconsin. The City of Viroqua, which owns the airport, had agreed to sell a sliver of land to the state Department of Transportation to expand US Highway 14 and create a bike path along the highway. The city had initially planned to permanently close the 2500-ft north/south grass runway.

The city was going to use the sale proceeds to build additional hangars on the grass runway site. Airport users, such as EAA Chapter 1439, tried to negotiate with the city regarding the runway closure, but the discussions were not productive. Chapter Secretary Jerry Shepard worked with EAA Government Relations Director Randy Hansen, who contacted Keith Gerard of the WI Bureau of Aeronautics and the FAA to work with the city. An agreement was reached allowing the city to proceed with the sale while keeping the runway open. An FAA land lease agreement bars the city from closing the entire grass runway.

The final agreement requires the city to keep the runway open but permits it to reduce its length to 1800 feet to allow for safe departure/arrival zones. The city further agrees to use the money from the sale of the land for improvements to the airport as needed and to develop a master plan to eventually restore the grass runway to its original length through such means as realignment.

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