Push begins to sustain National Aviation Heritage Area 15 more years

Legislation has been introduced that will extend funding for the nationally recognized area that celebrates Dayton’s role in aviation history.

Without the bill, legislation preserving the National Aviation Heritage Area (NAHA) — and the federal funding that goes with it — expires next year.

“It provides direct federal funding for our community to help coordinate the site,” U.S. House Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton said at National Historical Park offices on South Williams Street Thursday, in a building where the Wright Brothers once worked. “And it gives us a place to stack federal funding, state funding, local funding and private funding in order to accomplish some additional development goals.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by Turner, would extend funding for NAHA through 2036. The goal is around $400,000 a year, and Turner said he’ll work to increase that amount.

As of April 2018, the area had more than 2 million visitors annually, generating $35 million in economic impact and supporting 1,500 jobs, according to advocates.

The legislation ensures the continued flow of federal funds to an eight-county region around Dayton, said Mackensie Wittmer, executive director of the NAHA.

“We work with 17 partners across that eight-county region to tell that story, starting with the Wright Brothers, but also talking about the future of aviation and aerospace,” she said.

The overall area encompasses a variety of cultural sites, like the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, the Huffman Prairie Flying Field at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and sites related to the Wright Brothers.

It also touches on development of the Wright Brothers airplane factory, the world’s first plane production site a short drive in west Dayton from park offices.

Kendell Thompson, superintendent of the national park, said the National Park Service continues to try to acquire the factory’s two buildings between West Third Street and U.S. 35 east of Abbey Avenue, a key step in long-term plans to revitalize the buildings and the area around them.

“We expect to have that acquisition completed before the end of this calendar year,” Thompson said.

In 2004, Congress created the NAHA in the 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

This new legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus.

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