White Sands Missile Range

Posted by J B Crawford on 9 July 2014 in English (English)

Previously, OpenStreetMap has shown the White Sands Missile Range and related military installations here in New Mexico to include their "call-up" areas, or areas reserved for occasional use.

I am currently in the process of redefining this area in OSM to include only the main part of the range. I think the reasons for this are worth discussing. When users see a military installation marked on a map, particularly one shown in red diagonal stripes as the standard renderer shows it, they probably mainly expect restricted access. However, the call-up areas surrounding White Sands are entirely open to the public except for rare scheduled closures, during which signs are put up. Lately, many of the northern and western call-up areas have not had closures in quite some time.

Map users will likely be confused to see a large area marked on the map as a military reservation, but then to find no fence or any other kind of indications at the marked border. This is because the security fence is possibly many miles farther in, around the actual main area. The new outline will reflect the location of the security fence (the point at which public access is no longer allowed), which I think is the best representation of "what is on the ground."

That said, it may be useful to mark the call-up areas, and so I plan to add outlines that enclose them, but I am not sure about how to tag these.

A good source of fairly up-to-date and authoritative information on this is the White Sands Missile Range Proposed Land Use and Airspace Strategy Plan (LUASP), which you can find online. It provides names and definitions for the call-up areas and main range, as well as maps which usually show enough detail to allow you to locate the fenceline in satellite images.

I hope that this change will be useful to people like me that use OSM as a source of information for offroading, because the old outlines marked as inaccessible a huge amount of land, some of which is very beautiful and isolated country in the Quebradas, when that land is actually perfectly open to the public as long as there are not posted closures (which I have never once seen happen in the northern FIX area).

FYI for anyone else who works on this area: the entire call-up area north of the main range I am marking is called Fix, to the west of the main range, from north to south, are call-up areas Aerobee, Abres North, and Abres South.

Location: Sierra County, New Mexico, United States of America

Comment from Andy Allan on 10 July 2014 at 08:42

Don't worry too much about the stripes on the map, I expect them to change at some point. Most people interpret the red-stripey bits as danger areas, when they could (for example) just be parade grounds or barracks. I intend to change the rendering so that only danger areas get the danger stripes, and other military landuses will get a bit more subtle rendering.

Doesn't affect your tagging, but I thought I'd mention it since you are interested in this stuff.

Comment from Minh Nguyen on 12 July 2014 at 07:47

access=permissive should turn all the stripes green. :-P

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