On the Beat 1/26/16

National Park Service celebrates 100 years

By Jim Bucher
When national parks are mentioned what comes to mind? The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or perhaps the Great Smokey Mountains? 
But what about Dayton’s very own national park? 
Yep, we do have one here—and it’s a dandy. But first, a little history lesson.  
The first national park, Yellowstone, was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Jump to the 1980s when a group of aviation enthusiasts thought “Hey, what about a national park here?” After all, we are the home of the Wright Brothers and poet laureate Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
One problem, though—most of the evidence that Orville and Wilbur lived and worked here was gone. The cycle shop, boyhood home and 1903 airplane were relocated years earlier. Dismantled and erected at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. respectively. Much of the Dayton neighborhood where Orville and Wilbur Wright had lived and worked had already been destroyed by the 1970s. Neglect, riots during the 1960s, and a highway project through the city had leveled much of the neighborhood.
But one of the early cycle shops where the Wrights began their early flight research and sold bicycles to fund their aviation endeavors on Williams Street, and the building which housed the brothers’ print shop, were still relatively intact. And the cherry on top was Orville donated his Wright Flyer III to his friend Colonel Edward Deeds’ Carillon Historical Park. So, unlike others this one would be a scattered site national park because of their scattered locations. Wait, did that make sense?
In 1992, the U.S. Congress made it official, passing legislation to establish the new park. President George H.W. Bush signed the bill, which created the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park into law. Made up of five locations—The Wright Cycle Company Complex in Dayton, which includes the Wright Cycle Company building, the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, the Aviation Trail Visitor Center and Museum; Huffman Prairie Flying Field and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center, both located within Wright-Patterson Air Force Base just northeast of Dayton, but operated by the National Park Service; The Wright Brothers Aviation Center at Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, operated by Dayton History; The Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial in Dayton, operated by Dayton History on behalf of the Ohio Historical Society; and Hawthorn Hill, the 1914-1948 residence of Orville Wright, located just south of Dayton in Oakwood.
Now where am I going with all this, you ask? Well, if you noticed in the headline, it’s the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.
I remember early on in my TV news reporter career covering the early beginnings of our national park thinking, how is this ever going to come together? But it did, and now we have a first class amenity enjoyed by tens of thousands of locals and visitors alike each year. Over this past summer, it was really cool to hang out at the sites. Visiting Huffman Prairie, closing my eyes and thinking back to the time the Wrights were here … the sounds of an early airplane engine hacking and growling slowly raising the heavier-than-air machine to the heavens.
Then a quick visit to the Wright Memorial and Interpretive Center where you get a better idea of just how difficult it was to get a contraption off the ground. The many challenges and heartbreak it took and the drive the brothers had.
The Dunbar House is awesome. Pretty much the same was it was when Paul and his mother lived there. Then it’s off to Carillon Park to experience the Wright Flyer III—the first real practical airplane. Then the cycle shop and Hoover Block Building where there is first hand evidence of ink stains on the wood floor where the Wright’s Print Shop operated. Yes, these talented boys were printers too.
Finally, a visit to Hawthorne Hill to see first-hand Orville’s study with a pair of his spectacles next to his reading table. What a wonderful, full experience. Makes you proud to be a Daytonian.
So happy 100th, National Park Service. We’re glad you’re here!
Cheers, and fasten your seatbelt!
Buch

For more information, please visit nps.gov/daav/index.htm.

For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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