Sept. 30, 2020 - Hampton has received a $707,008 grant from the federal government that will be used for improvements needed at Air Power Park on Mercury Boulevard.
According to the application for the Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program: "The project will resolve a long-standing and worsening drainage and shoreline erosion problem that impedes usage and improvements at Hampton’s Air Power Park. Time and changing sea levels have made community utilization of the Park challenging. Tidal flooding and freshwater pooling threatens the artifacts and make the grounds wet, soft, and muddy much of the year.”
“The grant application process was extremely competitive and on a very tight timeline to submit. Our team did an outstanding job in submitting for the grant and it paid off! There were 130 communities that applied for the grant and Hampton was one of only 16 communities awarded the grant. Ultimately this project will benefit active duty service members, retirees and veterans, who enjoy visiting amenities such as Air Power Park for many years to come!” says Bruce Sturk, Director Federal Facilities Support, Hampton City Manager’s Office.
The proposal describes the park and its displays as a "historic military asset, one of the most prominent connections for military families and their community in the region.” The site is operated by the Hampton History Museum.
According to project director Allen Hoilman, Hampton History Museum curator, “Air Power Park was established in October, 1963 (as Aerospace Park) to be a tribute to Hampton’s Air and Space heritage and honoring the men and women of Langley Air Force Base and NASA Langley Research Center who crafted this heritage. In the decades since, the park has continued to offer a unique opportunity to show case numerous aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles that represent past and present accomplishments of Langley AFB and NASA Langley Research Center. Today, thousands of visitors enjoy and learn from the exhibits each year. The work accomplished with this grant’s funding will ensure its future and the continuation of the revitalization begun two years ago.”
The free, 15-acre park features several vintage aircraft and experimental space launch vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s, including jets, missiles, and rockets. Many of the displays have connections with nearby Langley Air Force Base and NASA Langley Research Center. The 1960s geodesic dome at the center of the park includes themed rooms with more than 325 models of aircraft, spacecraft, and nautical vessels representing all the U.S. branches of service and some other nations.
Air Power Park is located at 413 W Mercury Blvd., Hampton. Outdoor displays of restored aircraft and spacecraft open daily sunrise to sunset. Indoor display hours: Monday-Sunday, 9 am-3 pm. For more information call 757-726-0650.
From the grant application: Air Power Park Tidal Flooding Mitigation, Shoreline Protection and Site Drainage Improvement Project
DOD-OEA-DCIP Grant Mission
Execute projects or programs in accordance with public law, which specifically authorizes and appropriates funds to the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to make investments that include construction design, site preparation, and construction. Assist communities responding to defense impacts as directed by the Department of Defense and/or statute.
Goals related to the OEA mission:
Execute congressionally authorized and appropriated projects “owned by a State or local government, or a not-for-profit, member-owned utility service to address deficiencies in community infrastructure supportive of a military installation, if the Secretary determines that such assistance will enhance the military value, resilience or military family quality of life at such military installation.” The Secretary of Defense instructed OEA to invite a grant application for the Joint Base Langley-Eustis City of Hampton Air Power Park Tidal Flooding Mitigation under the “Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Project.” (DCIP)
Military families crave stability and spending more time together, which makes community assets like Air Power Park essential to service members and their family’s quality of life. Air Power Park and Museum was established in October, 1963 (as Aerospace Park, on the fifth anniversary of the founding of NASA) and is located at the intersection of Mercury Boulevard (so named in honor of the NASA program) and LaSalle Avenue (located approximately 1.5 miles from the LaSalle Gate at Langley Air Force Base which is a part of Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE)). The Park was created to honor the men and women of Langley Air Force Base and NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) who crafted Hampton’s remarkable aerospace heritage. This heritage connects service members to the history and upholds the military values within it. Since its opening, the Park has show-cased aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, NASA, and the National Naval Aviation Museum that represent past and present accomplishments of Langley AFB and NASA LaRC.
This project will resolve a long-standing and worsening drainage and shoreline erosion problem that impedes usage and improvements at Hampton’s Air Power Park. Time and changing sea levels have made community utilization of the Park challenging. Tidal flooding and fresh water pooling threatens the artifacts and make the grounds wet, soft and muddy much of the year. In these conditions, public programming and artifact conservation is problematic at best. In 2018, the Hampton City Council approved the Air Power Park Phased Recovery Plan and embarked on a program of improvements to ensure Air Power Park’s future as a community asset. Hampton Department of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services developed this multi-year, multi-phase plan to accomplish this. In FY2019 and FY2020 PRLS made great progress within a limited budget. To date, PRLS has completed the first two phases: restoring the historic aircraft and spacecraft, addition of new interpretation stations, installation of new aesthetic amenities, and most importantly to this proposal - design of the grading and drainage plan.
The third proposed phase, included in this application, will implement the drainage and grading plan. Unfortunately, the costs for this phase exceeds PRLS capacity to absorb. We would like to continue our efforts to preserve the Park through DCIP funding and save this historic military asset, one of the most prominent connections for military families and their community in the region. The City of Hampton applied for the (DCIP) grant as a means to obtain funding from OEA to successfully complete the proposed Air Power Park Tidal Flooding Mitigation project. Without the DCIP grant this project will not happen.
The tidal and stormwater flooding conditions in the park and the shoreline erosion will be addressed by fill and regrading of a portion of the site such that the entire park is a minimum of 4’ above sea level. This would allow for a uniform slope from the higher parking area along Mercury Boulevard down to the creek, thereby eliminating the low areas in the outdoor exhibit areas where storm water has been collecting. During the construction, many of the outdoor exhibits will be removed while the grounds were being regraded and the existing pads and pedestals were being demolished. Once the new grades are established, new pads or pedestals will be poured at the higher elevation for the exhibits. To address the shoreline erosion problem, a bulkhead will be constructed with a top elevation of 4’ above sea level along the lowest-lying portion of the shoreline. Beyond the limits of the proposed bulkhead at either end the ground elevations are 5’ or higher, which provides a natural barrier against storm tides up to the 5’ elevation.
In the last few years, annual visitation by the thousands of visitors has increased by 30% year over year. Air Power Park and Museum have always been free and open to the public: this includes JBLE with over 54,000 active duty soldiers and airmen, VA Air National Guard, and dependents; to include 3,400 civilian employees and their families at NASA LaRC along with; countless veterans, military and NASA retirees. These planned improvements will not only ensure continuation of these services, but also provide sound infrastructure to accommodate the expansion of programming including educational programs, docent lead tours, a fresh suite of interpretive stations, and exhibits within the Park’s 1967 architecturally historic geodesic structure. As a part of the City’s Adopt an Airman program, plans are underway with JBLE-Langley that would offer first term Airmen initially assigned to the installation an opportunity to meet at Air Power Park for guided instructional tours and conversations related to the history and heritage of Langley Air Force Base.
Air Power Park is also the home to the trail-head for the newly completed “Waterwalk at Central Park” which stretches 2.25 miles through the heart of Coliseum Central to the Power Plant shopping area. This shared, multi-use path creates an exciting and safe experience for pedestrians, bicyclists and joggers. Behind Air Power Park, “Waterwalk” is a raised wooden walkway providing a quiet observation deck with views of the wetlands of Newmarket Creek, filled with wildlife. Visitors may see herons, egrets, redwing blackbirds and various types of crabs. The planned improvements replace an existing floating dock, making it handicapped accessible for kayakers and canoers. These quality of life amenities in the City of Hampton offer great morale, welfare and recreation opportunities for all service members and their families assigned to JBLE.