WAUSEON - A stretch of trees near Fulton County Airport that was listed as a contributing factor in a plane crash that killed a Minnesota businessman, his wife, and daughter in May is to be chopped down this fall.
County commissioners this week unanimously accepted an agreement with Raymond and Nancy Dieringer, who own wooded land near the airport in Dover Township north of Wauseon.
The woods has been a concern to airport officials since the airport was built in the late 1960s, said Steve Rupp, airport manager and owner-operator of Rupp Aviation, Inc. The tall trees lead to downdrafts and other abnormal wind conditions that he called a hazard.
“It makes some real goofy winds. It makes a lot of turbulence,” he said.
The agreement between the commissioners and the Dieringers calls for the couple to give the county 12 acres of woods east of the airport's east-west runway and an easement on nine acres of woods and farmland. The land is between County Roads J and K and County Roads 13 and 14. Neither parcel has frontage.
In exchange, the commissioners will give the Dieringers 24 acres of farmland, which has frontage on County Road K between County Roads 13 and 14 and adjoins the Dieringers' land, and $1. The commissioners are expected to rent out the former Dieringer woods as farmland, county administrator Vond Hall said.
The commissioners also hope to acquire Charles and Vicki Kline's woods just south of the airport, Mr. Hall said.
The county does not own land adjacent to Mr. Kline's that it could offer in trade. The commissioners hope to make a cash deal with the couple, using part of a $450,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration that it has been promised for improvements and removal of obstructions. The grant calls for a 10 percent local match.
Acquiring the Dieringers' woods has been a goal of the commissioners for years, and this week's settlement was unrelated to the deadly May crash of a single-engine plane, Commissioner Dean Genter said. The Dieringers received letters about negotiations with commissioners before the crash.
Killed in the plane crash were James Wittman, the pilot, and Susan Peterson-Wittman, both of Medicine Lake, Minn., and Kaili Wittman-Lavelle of Spring Park, Minn.
The trees were listed as a factor in that crash, but aviation officials have never blamed an accident solely on the woods, Mr. Hall said.
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