Group seeks to build $17.6M Wright Flyer monument

Local organizations asked to support project at I-75, I-70 crossroads.

Members of the Wright Image Group have renewed their push to place a nearly $18 million Wright Flyer monument on the southwest quadrant of Interstates 70 and 75.

“We think this could become a world-class monument with a lot of visits annually,” said Walter Ohlmann, WIG president and CEO of The Ohlmann Group Inc. “I think that’s what Dayton needs.”

The Dayton-based nonprofit organization has had a public campaign for eight years to build The Triumph of Flight monument, which would feature a stainless steel replica of the world’s first practical airplane created by Dayton natives Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The group is contacting local jurisdictions, asking them to draft updated resolutions of support for the project. Dayton and Clayton have drafted new resolutions of support.

“We have known about it for years, seeing it is to be situated on land in the township,” said Mike Lang, president of the Butler Township trustees. “We certainly support the spirit of the project, but have no plans to spend public monies on it.”

“We have not been approached about project,” said John Applegate, Union city manager. “My opinion is they can build it as long as the project is paid for with private money.”

WIG needs at least $17.6 million for the monument, which would be 270 feet high, or 35 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.

Ohlmann said WIG has collected more than a $1 million for the project.

Some money would be used for ice, snow and wind tunnel tests on the plane portion of the monument.

The Wright brothers piloted the airplane, known as the 1905 Wright Flyer III, in record-breaking flights at Huffman Prairie Flying Field just outside of Dayton.

The monument will be placed on land owned by Singer Properties.

“We would donate the land for the project,” said Alex Kolodesh, co-owner of Singer Properties.

“People will be able to park, walk up to the reflecting pool and see the monument rising out of its middle,” said Curt Nelson, WIG’s vice president of Public Affairs. “They will also be able to walk around the Evolution of Flight.”

Other highlights of the monument would include life-sized bronze statutes of the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong and John Glenn and a 10,000 square foot gathering plaza with an embedded map of the world and a quarter of a mile of gently curving retention walls displaying Ohio’s aviation and aerospace history.

Lt. Craig Cvetan, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Public Affairs department, said the patrol has not seen the project proposal.

When asked about the size of the monument being a possible distraction to drivers, Cvetan said it’s up to the drivers to determine if they are going to allow themselves to be distracted.

“Obviously, in the beginning, something large and new could be a distraction to people, but once people become accustomed to seeing it, which is probably the majority of traffic in that area comes through there, everyday, it’s just going to become another normal part of the scenery,” Cvetan said.

“We are glad they are keeping us updated on the project’s progress, but it is not in ODOT’s right of way, so we have limited involvement,” said Mandi Dillon, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “Our involvement is to simply monitor progress and make sure the structure does not encroach on state right of way.”

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