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Grounds Crew Working Nonstop to Clear Water, Mud

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 22, 2019 - With rain saturating the EAA grounds Friday night and Saturday, workers and volunteers have been working nearly nonstop to clear standing water and mud before the start of today's fly-in and convention.

EAA Director of Communications Dick Knapinski said workers have been dumping woodchips and gravel in muddy areas, while also vacuuming up water to get waterlogged areas somewhat dryer. In addition, volunteers on tractors have been pulling motorhomes and vehicles out of the mud, and have a long list of vehicles still left to move.

Airport parking and EAA camping was closed Saturday and Sunday to give the grounds a chance to dry out. That meant campers were forced to temporarily park on neighboring roads or local parking lots until both were opened again. Planes with tundra tires were allowed to land on Sunday since those tires distribute the weight so well, Dick said.

In addition, EAA sent out two Bell 47 helicopters on Sunday to hover over areas like the grass taxiway south of N-27, Dick said. "If we can get the grass taxiways dry where most of the airplanes run, then we can start parking them and finding dry spots," he said.

John Doucha, foreman of the aviation center grounds, said his crew also was using woodchips in low areas and pathways, adding gravel in muddy areas to help vehicles get traction, and trying to keep people from parking on the grass, in an effort to keep down the mud. "But we only have so many trucks and materials that we can use," he said.

They also have opened camping in areas that have never held campers before, if only for a day or two, in hopes of allowing the regular campground sites a chance to dry out, John said. Dick said two things kept the problems caused by the storms from being worse. "One, it was fairly dry before Friday's and Saturday's rainstorms," he said. "Secondly, we're supposed to have a nice, dry forecast."

Improvements EAA made to the grounds after 2010's Sploshkosh also helped to keep problems down. "After 2010, there were many improvements made in the drainage areas, such as drainage ditches that carry water more swiftly off the site, as well as drain tiles that help the water drain more quickly," Dick said.

But, he has firsthand knowledge of how challenging the conditions were on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds. Dick got stuck in the mud after volunteering to give a couple of AirVenture attendees a ride to the campground on Saturday in the rain.

He had just dropped off the second person, when he hit muck and quickly found himself stuck. "But this is where karma comes in," Dick said. Sitting across the road was a man in an SUV who had chains and volunteered to pull him out once the rain stopped.

"I was out in like 10 seconds," Dick said, "and I'd like to thank EAA member Pat Fargo … who just happened to be sitting on that road in his Suburban, waiting for me to do something like that."

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