November 2, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
It's a sunny day—time to get outside and have some family fun. You could go to the park, or you could head for the airport and watch airplanes.
If you live near South Carolina's Greenville Downtown Airport, now you can now do both.
On Oct. 25, Airport Director Joe Frasher announced completion of phase one of an aviation park project that has been in planning and development for more than two years.
Community members who turned out for the park's opening the next day—which also was the beginning of a visit from vintage World War II aircraft of the Collings Foundation's Wings of Freedom Tour—could call some space their own on the site donated by the airport commission.
“We had a huge turnout,” said Lara Kaufmann, Greenville Downtown's director of public relations, who pitched in to help to park the visitors' cars.
The visitors also were treated to a glimpse of the community aviation park's future: Picture some major features of a playground-scale airport right alongside the real-life airport that is South Carolina's busiest for general aviation. When the vision comes fully alive, visitors will pass through an entranceway fashioned from an aircraft fuselage to picnic, watch aircraft, play in an aviation-themed playground, or stroll along “walking runways” or a “perimeter taxiway” to be realistically painted next spring.
The project has created a strong bond in the community, with Greenville Downtown's businesses among the park's most active supporters and contributors. For the next phase, donations are being sought for amenities including a picnic pavilion, a climbing structure (to resemble a control tower); and a fuselage suitable for conversion to a “unique and handicapped-accessible park entrance.”
In a news release, Kaufmann said the park would restore to the community a venue for experiencing aviation after that capability was lost at the city's commercial-service airport. It would also present aviation to youngsters as a possible career path.
“We also want to provide a community place where people can get outside; and be active, exercise, play, and learn," she said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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