Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park


Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

© Dayton History

Pew created this case study using National Park Service deferred maintenance data issued in fiscal year 2015. The information listed here may no longer reflect the NPS site’s current condition or maintenance requirements. To find the most up-to-date information, please use the National Park Repair Needs tool.


In 1903, two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, made their mark on American history by launching the first airplane  into a sustained flight in North Carolina. The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park shares the stories  of Orville and Wilbur Wright and another native son, Paul Laurence Dunbar, who drew international acclaim for  his poetry, novels, and plays on civil rights and other themes.

The park, founded in 1992, needs over half a million dollars in deferred maintenance, mostly for historic structures. Funding these repairs not only would preserve the legacy of important American figures but also  would help to stimulate the local economy. With five national historic landmarks, Dayton Aviation Heritage    hopes to promote its recreational and educational opportunities with local, state, and federal governments. It has already worked with the city of Dayton to revitalize an urban neighborhood.

Dayton maintenance

Dayton Aviation Heritage needs more than $500,000 in repairs, including fixing the Paul Laurence Dunbar House’s front porch.

© Erin Bartlett

Maintenance challenges

The National Park Service (NPS) works with many partners to manage the aviation heritage area, including Aviation Trail Inc., Dayton History, National Aviation Heritage Alliance, Ohio History Connection, and Wright- Patterson Air Force Base. These affiliations have enabled NPS to share a lot of the costs associated with protecting the park’s historic assets and creating unique visitor experiences.

Even with these partnerships, however, NPS faces a maintenance backlog exceeding $500,000. Most of the needed repairs are to buildings, including the Wright Cycle Co. building—home to a bicycle business the brothers ran, several administrative offices, and the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. The center, formerly  a print shop operated by the Wrights, is co-managed by NPS and Aviation Trail Inc., a nonprofit. NPS’ portion of repairs includes $341,000 to replace the alarm system, update the audio and visual systems, and fix the roof and chimney. The Cycle Co. building requires many of the same repairs, and the porch decking also needs to be replaced.


Since its inception, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park site has been a catalyst to inspire the continuing revitalization of the historic Wright-Dunbar neighborhood in West Dayton. With more than $100 million leveraged and invested in this neighborhood since 2001, the national park has helped to bring new residents and businesses into this once-forgotten neighborhood.Shelley Dickstein, Dayton city manager


To address the deferred maintenance needs at Dayton Aviation Heritage and other NPS sites in Ohio and across the country, Congress should:

  • Ensure that infrastructure initiatives include provisions to address park maintenance.
  • Provide dedicated annual federal funding for national park repairs.
  • Enact innovative policy reforms to ensure that deferred maintenance does not escalate.
  • Provide more highway funding for NPS maintenance needs.
  • Create more opportunities for public-private collaboration and donations to help restore park infrastructure.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park Facts


Visitor spending $5.7 million
Jobs created by visitor spending 104
Economic output $8.9 million
Labor income $3.2 million
Visits 95,334
Deferred maintenance (fiscal year 2015) $565,274

Sources: National Park Service, “Annual Visitation Report by Years: 2006 to 2016,” accessed June 14, 2017, Reports/Annual Visitation By Park (1979 - Last Calendar Year); National Park Service, “Visitor Spending Effects,” accessed June 14, 2017,; National Park Service, “NPS Deferred Maintenance Reports,” accessed Aug. 19, 2016,

© 2017 The Pew Charitable Trusts


The Pew Charitable Trusts works alongside the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other national and local groups to ensure that our national park resources are maintained and protected for future generations to enjoy.

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