Like the military aviators it will honor, Bowling Green’s Aviation Heritage Park museum is finding a way to adapt and overcome.
Despite delays related to fundraising and building-supply shortages brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, leaders of the park at Three Springs Road and Smallhouse Road are soldiering on toward the goal of building the 11,000-square-foot museum to house aviation artifacts and memorabilia.
An addition to the static display that now includes seven aircraft with ties to southcentral Kentucky military aviators, the museum will have the look of a 1930s-era airplane hangar and will house many smaller items that can’t be displayed outdoors.
With work being done now on the roof and walls, the museum is taking shape.
“We made the decision about two months ago to move forward with phase two, which will completely enclose the building,” said Joe Tinius, president of the AHP board of directors. “We have enough money in hand or pledged to complete this phase.”
Tinius said this second phase of the museum’s construction will include all the siding and masonry work, along with windows and doors.
“When this phase is finished, the building will be airtight and enclosed,” Tinius said. “We’ll then be ready for the final phase, which is the interior work.”
The AHP board has raised about $1.5 million of its original goal of $2.5 million. Tinius said efforts to come up with the final $1 million are continuing, with that money going toward the interior work.
Tinius said AHP’s relationship with the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (“River Rats”) has helped with fundraising.
Founded as an organization to commemorate fighter pilots from the Vietnam War era, The River Rats group has broadened its reach and is now planning to establish its home base in the AHP museum.
“That relationship (with the River Rats) is growing,” Tinius said. “They made a significant pledge that helped us finance the second phase of construction.”
A link on the River Rats’ website refers to the AHP museum as the “future home of the River Rats” and indicates the museum will allow the group to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts, documents, patches, flight suits and other items.
Tinius said plans are in the works for the River Rats to hold a national reunion in Bowling Green in 2023.
That relationship isn’t the only avenue the AHP board is utilizing to help with fundraising.
Tinius said the museum will have memorial walls on two sides, and the AHP board is selling memorial bricks that allow people to honor military veterans with personalized brass plates attached to a brick.
“We held off on doing that until we had bricks going up,” Tinius said. “We feel like we’re at that point now.”
He said brick sponsorships are $100 and can be in recognition of any military veteran, not just aviators.
– More information about AHP and the museum construction can be found at aviationheritagepark.com.
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