Wednesday, June 19, 2024

After years of neglect, community park gets a face lift

The City of Hampton is seeking bids to restore multiple aircraft on display at Air Power Park.

The first portion of the project is expected to start in the spring.

“We’re just getting started on it, we’re very excited about it,” said Allen Hoilman, project manager and curator at the Hampton History Museum.

Air Power Park is a 15-acre community fixture constructed in the 1960s which features a building full of aviation artifacts and memorabilia and an outdoor area with retired aircraft loaned to the city from NASA Langley Research Center and the Air Force.

“The two big pieces we provide are the two rockets, Little Joe and Jupiter,” said Kristyn Damedeo, spokeswoman for NASA.

Damedeo said Little Joe 2 was used in a flight test with Sam, the rhesus monkey, on Dec.4, 1959 on Wallops Island, and the Jupiter missile was part of a program to test modified high performance rockets.

“There are other smaller displays and exhibits provided by Langley as well,” she said.

The city plans to consult with NASA engineers about the aircraft during the restoration process and while City Council has approved all five phases of the multi-year project, only phases one and two have had budgets allocated from the city’s park and recreation department.

Phase one and two – restore aircraft

The first two phases deals with taking care of the aircraft which includes painting, restoration, replacing signs describing each aircraft and replacing the chain-link fence on the property. Construction is expected to start in April and will cost around $500,000, Hoilman said.

Phase three – remodel and drain

The third phase will remodel the existing building in addition to working with the city’s Resilient Hampton initiative to work on a drainage system. The park currently borders Newmarket Creek and is prone to flooding throughout the year. Hoilman said the budget for this phase has not been allocated yet and is expected to start in fiscal year 2021.

Phase four- remount aircraft

In fiscal year 2022, the city will remount the restored aircraft.

Phase five- final touches

The last phase of the project includes fencing, installing decorative flag pole and creating an inviting archway at the entrance of the park.

Hoilman said the entire restoration project will cost around $3 million and is projected to be complete in the fiscal year 2023.

Why is this project happening?

In the last couple years, NASA Langley Research Center and Air Force have expressed concerns about the aircraft and in March of last year, the community voiced their concerns.

“There’s a fondness of the park from the community,” Hoilman said. “They remember the park from the glory days.”

Previously, the city and the Air Force had a mutual agreement where the Air Force would provide maintenance of the aircraft but after 9/11, the responsibility for the aircraft’s maintenance fell on the city, Hoilman said.

In 2008, deferred payments to maintain the displayed aircraft and allocated the money elsewhere to schools and other programs during the recession. Four years later, there were design plans to redesign the park in anticipation of a Tuskegee monument will ultimately fell through, he said.

The park, 413 West Mercury Blvd., is now at the entrance of the city’s Waterwalk at Central Park a 2.5-mile scenic trail throughout Hampton and will remain open to visitors during construction.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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