Marines close parking lot next to MCAS Futenma
The U.S. military in Japan has told Ginowan City that the land that has been open to locals for use as a free parking lot is now closed, citing security reasons.
Ginowan City government officials say the Saturday statement marks the first time that the parking lot of about 8,500 square meters, located next to the MCAS Futenma, has been closed since the site was opened to the public free of charge in 1976. The closure took effect on Saturday for an indefinite period.
A senior official of the city government suspects that the move may be “a retaliatory measure against escalating protests” by residents over the deployment last month of the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft at the Futenma base. Since late September, Okinawa residents gathered in front of the air station’s gate almost every day to protest the Osprey deployment amid persistent safety concerns over the aircraft following a series of accidents overseas. Some participants were flying balloons and kites and closed in on vehicles of military-linked personnel moving in and out of the gate.
People who work at offices and businesses in the vicinity have used the parking lot, with a capacity of about 300 vehicles, at almost full capacity every day, according to the city’s tourism board, which has manages the space. “Many people will be in trouble due to the closure, as there is no other large-scale parking lot in the area,“ a tourism board official said.
There were also some cars left on the lot after it was closed. “In order to get their vehicles out, those owners have to contact Ginowan City Office that will then arrange and coordinate the matter with the Marine Corps,” the official said.