STATEMENT OF DONALD J. HELLMANN, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE AND CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, U.S. SENATE, CONCERNING S. 2959, A BILL TO CLARIFY THE AREAS INCLUDED IN THE DAYTON AVIATION HERITAGE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, OHIO, AND TO AUTHORIZE APPROPRIATIONS FOR THAT PARK.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the subcommittee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2959, a bill to clarify the areas included in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, Ohio, and to authorize appropriations for that park.

S. 2959 would expand the authorized boundaries of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park through the inclusion of three properties adjacent to the park’s core unit and the inclusion of the expanded Wright Hall complex at Carillon Historical Park; and, it would remove the ceiling on the use of appropriated funds for the operation, development, or restoration of non-federally owned properties within the boundaries of the park.

 

The Department of the Interior supports enactment of this legislation. This position is consistent with the legislated purpose of the park, the November 1997 general management plan, and the June 2000 land protection plan; and is supported by all affected park partners and property owners. The total acreage of all four tracts is 0.7 acres. Of these tracts, the two owned by the City of Dayton would be donated to the National Park Service, the tract owned by Aviation Trail, Inc. would continue to be owned by Aviation Trail, Inc. with acquisition by the National Park Service a future possibility on a willing buyer-willing seller arrangement, and the tract owned by Carillon Historical Park would continue to be owned by that organization.

The removal of the ceiling on the use of appropriated funds on non-federally owned properties within the boundaries of the park would eliminate a significant impediment in the development of the park and the partnerships that the park has been mandated to foster and support. In most cases, we do not support the use of limited NPS maintenance or construction funding for non-Federal facilities, because those funds are needed to address the most important needs identified in the five-year priority lists. We do not object to this authorization, however, because the proposed improvements to non-Federal facilities within the park unit's boundaries would provide a distinct benefit to the park. Funding for land acquisition and construction is subject to the availability of appropriations and the needs identified in the NPS priority lists.

 

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park was authorized in 1992 as a multi-unit partnership park to commemorate the legacy of the Wright brothers and poet and author Paul Laurence Dunbar and their association with the greater Dayton region. The Wright brothers, through their invention of powered flight, achieved one of the single most important advances of the 20th Century. Paul Laurence Dunbar, a childhood friend of the Wright brothers, rose from a poor childhood in Dayton to international acclaim as a writer and as an effective voice for equality and justice and contributing to a growing social consciousness and cultural identity for African-Americans in the United States.

Operation of the park is a partnership that involves four legislatively mandated partners (National Park Service, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Ohio Historical Society, and Carillon Historical Park, a private, non-profit organization), a Federal commission, other government agencies, and 40 partner organizations.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is currently undergoing rapid change as it is developed in preparation for the Centennial of Flight Celebration in 2003. Detailed planning and design is being completed and preparations are underway for the initiation of major construction/rehabilitation projects at each of the four units with a goal to have the park ready and fully accessible to the public by December 17, 2002, the start of the Centennial Celebration. This ongoing planning and development has highlighted issues that were not anticipated when the park was initially authorized, but which today, are critical for the protection, preservation, and management of these significant national resources.

The West Third Street [National Register] Historic District incorporates The Wright Cycle Company building (22 South Williams Street) and two adjacent historic residential properties (26 and 30 South Williams Street). This historic district is significant because it is where the Wright brothers had their printing, bicycle, and airplane businesses. The two adjacent turn-of-the-century residential structures are a critically important component of the cultural landscape providing historic integrity for The Wright Cycle Company building, the only structure representing the Wright brothers bicycle business that remains at its original location and original form. Also significant is the fact that the roof of the small, wood-frame house located at 26 South Williams Street touches the roof of the Wright Cycle Company structure and represents a potential threat by fire to the long-term protection and preservation of the Wright Cycle Company building. Inclusion of these properties would allow the NPS to consider fire suppression of all the buildings and will ensure the long-term protection and preservation of the Wright Cycle Company building.

The NPS and Aviation Trail, Inc. are proposing to partner in the development of the Hoover Block and the Aviation Trail building to create a single interpretive center facility that would occupy the two structures. The combined development of the two structures will preserve historic resources associated with the Hoover Block by centralizing facility utility systems, reducing overall project costs, facilitating improved visitor flow through the structures providing for a higher quality visitor experience, and providing additional space for exhibits and displays. Through administrative action (Federal Register, July 3, 2000) the NPS has incorporated the Aviation Trail, Inc. property within the park boundaries. Inclusion of this provision within the legislation will update the legislation to match existing conditions and removal of the ceiling will allow the partnership project to proceed.

When the park was authorized in 1992, Wright Hall was a separate, stand-alone structure. As a part of the private development of that unit of the park, Wright Hall has been expanded with constructed additions and an attached structure, that is now known collectively as the John W. Berry, Sr. Wright Brothers Aviation Center. To facilitate consistent and clear management of Wright Hall as a unit of the NPS, the entire facility should be incorporated within the boundaries of the park.

Since the date the bill was introduced, we have received the final map referenced in section 2. The map is numbered 362-80,010 and dated September 1, 2000. We suggest the bill be amended to include the number and date.

This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or members of the subcommittee may have.