With a daytime population of 25,200 and an economic impact of $2.6 billion, Fort Knox and its missions are a commodity to be preserved, local officials say.
That’s why the Lincoln Trail Area Development’s Mission Knox has worked with the Department of Defense to identify potential setbacks to communities and the post alike by developing a Compatible Use Plan, District Executive Director Mike Burress said.
“The whole purpose of this Compatible Use Plan is to try to find and identify where there might be some areas of issues, going forward how we might assist in the mitigation of them, policies that might be available and tools for our local communities to use,” he said.
The plan encourages collaboration in planning and development between the U.S. Army installation and the four counties — Hardin, Bullitt, Meade and Nelson — and the communities within them which abut Fort Knox.
“We’re working as a kind of the intermediary on behalf of Fort Knox but also on behalf of our local communities in trying to ensure there’s collaboration amongst the installation and the local communities to ensure the mission of Fort Knox can be as much as it possibly can be,” he said.
The study evaluates a multitude of compatibility issues to physical, noise and light encroachment, environmental impact, and infrastructure issues such as roads, housing and utilities.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with this study is to identify those things that have negative effects, not only on Fort Knox but the local communities,” Burress said. “The key to all this is not only how we can continue to work together, the local communities here in Meade, Hardin, Bullitt and Nelson, but how we can thrive. How we can also ensure that Fort Knox is viable with its missions.”
Burress said Lincoln Trail Area Development District is working as an intermediary on behalf of Fort Knox and local communities to ensure collaboration in planning.
At the table to develop the plan were political and governmental leaders from all four counties affected and representatives from other stakeholder organizations, such as Knox Regional Development Alliance President and CEO Jim Iacocca.
“Where this is really beneficial, it identifies the concerns of encroachment, light encroachment, and noise encroachment and other things that effect military operations on Fort Knox, but also what could affect neighborhoods off of Fort Knox,” he said. “So it’s really an opportunity to hear all sides of an issue.”
Iacocca said developing the plan was an important process for the area.
“It’s important, one, to protect the military capabilities that do exist at Fort Knox to make sure that training areas can still be used, that they don’t pose a risk to any off-post housing, that light encroachment doesn’t impact operations on Fort Knox,” he said. “Then it’s also important for communities off the post to know what’s happening on the post as well.”
Iacocca said, however, this is not government telling people what they can do with their property, but rather a plan to make wise investments.
He cited a residential development near the southern part of the Fort Knox boundary in Bullitt County near Ky. 313 and Interstate 65.
The development is near the Yano Range, which has been dormant for a few years, but the Army is currently developing a Digital Air Ground Integration Range, or DAGIR, on that property.
“It’s been quiet out there for a couple years so people start building houses, and some of them are very nice homes, and then all sudden the DAGIR is complete and the Army starts training there,” he said. “Then people start making noise complaints because of the noise coming from Fort Knox when in all fairness realtors should have told people, ‘Hey, it’s quiet now, but it’s not going to be in a couple years. If you want to build here, know this is what’s about to happen.’ ”
Noise encroachment from the post into residential areas is just one aspect the plan, Iacocca said. He also referred to light encroachment, which many may not think about.
“Pilots flying under night vision goggles, light encroachment can very much hinder that capability,” he said. “Through this Fort Knox has the opportunity to work with communities to say, ‘This is the type of lighting to put in.’ They won’t say you can’t put lighting in, but some lighting is more restrictive to military operations than others.”
To help avoid some encroachment issues, Burress said the plan identified one-mile, five-miles and 10-miles buffer zones and where those should be implemented.
“It’s good for the community and it’s good for the installation,” he said. “If the community acknowledges some of that buffer zone around Fort Knox, it’s easy to preserve the capacity of Fort Knox to do what it does.”
Burress said developing the plan also helped create an educational component for the public.
“Fort Knox is, if not the top, one of the top training facilities in all of the Army,” he said. “In order to keep it viable, we need to ensure the installation is protected from us, private citizens, but also Fort Knox wants to be a good neighbor. We do not want to drive anyone away.
“The ideal thing is that we all live in harmony and that there would be no noise, but a military installation is always going to bring noise,” he added.
Burress said the study conducted to develop the plan has been ongoing since 2019 and has included public forums and multiple meetings with officials involved in the process.
To view the draft plan, go to bit.ly/3oBc91d.
The public also can offer input in a survey at bit.ly/3adCFp7, Burress said.
“There’s nothing here we’re looking at that’s calling anybody a bad neighbor,” he said. “It’s simply trying to identify those things that left untreated can become a problem, not only for the community but for the mission of Fort Knox.”
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or email@example.com.