KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A hill overlooking the runways on this sprawling air base soon will be closed to the public.

A fence will be installed along Highway 74 in the town of Kadena, adjacent to the air base, restricting access to what is popularly known as Security Treaty Hill, according to the Japan Defense Facilities Administration’s Naha Bureau.

Signs recently were posted in the area notifying owners of unauthorized structures in the area that it soon will be fenced off.

“The fence is being installed to improve the physical and operational security of Kadena Air Base in the post-9/11 environment,” said 18th Wing spokesman Maj. Michael Paoli. The fencing project is due for completion by March 2006, he said.

A spokesman for the town said the so-called “tacit” farmers who traditionally have been allowed to till the soil not used by the Air Force in the area still will have access to their land.

“We were informed this month of the new fence to be put up along the highway,” said Michiaki Tokashiki, chief of Kadena Town’s Military Affairs Office on Wednesday. “There will still be access for the tacit farmers.

“However, in recent years use of the space has deviated from its original intent,” Tokashiki said. “There are so many shacks, and even some people raise goats there. And, in the worst cases, some people have used the space for business, such as storage for a used-car dealer.”

That no longer will be allowed, he said.

The hill has been a popular tourist stop because of its unobstructed view of Kadena Air Base’s runways. It is also popular with aviation enthusiasts who spend hours photographing air activity on the base.

In March 2003, the town built a three-story visitor’s center across the road that has replaced the hill as a tourist destination. Since its grand opening, more than 1.2 million people have visited the center, Tokashiki said.

Security Treaty Hill also has served as a rallying point for anti-base protesters, he said. “However, we will not allow anyone to hold rallies at the visitor’s center.”

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