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Discovery Park building momentum; training plane arrives

Discovery Park building momentum; training plane arrives

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 9:30 pm
By: Glenda Caudle, Special Features Editor

By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special features editor
Sizzling summer temperatures couldn’t diminish the enthusiasm of those who turned out for the special Discovery Park of America event staged this morning at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport between Union City and Martin.
The site was chosen because one of the most exciting of Discovery Center’s exhibits — a Stearman plane identical to those used to train World War II cadets at the former Embry-Riddle Field — was flown into the site by local pilot Mike Rinker. The former flight school location was carved out of Obion County farm acreage in 1942 and was later turned over to the county, once the need for trained pilots to help wage the battle in the skies over Europe, Africa and Asia was no longer urgent. Obion County — and more recently, Weakley County — benefited from the gift because the former training ground has grown into an impressive regional air field with a runway extension groundbreaking recently celebrated.
The plane, which was located and purchased by the volunteer-staffed Military History committee, will be showcased at Discovery Center when the Discovery Park of America 50-acre educational-entertainment-tourism complex opens in 2012 in Union City’s northwest quadrant. The site will be bordered by I-69 and Everett Boulevard, just across the latter roadway from Union City Second Baptist Church.
In addition to the opportunity to see the plane up close after Rinker’s landing, those attending were able to view some other World War II items that will be on display at Discovery Center and to meet and speak both to some of those who worked at the former Embry-Riddle Field during the time it was a training area for pilots and to some other local World War II veterans.
Also on the agenda
And then there was the unveiling of the new plans for DPA and Discovery Center.
Architects Louis Sirianni and Brad Nederhoff of Verner Johnson Museum Architects and Planners of Boston; Tom Hennes, Julie Chung and Madeline Chinnici  from Thinc Design of New York, who are planning how to showcase the exhibits; and Richie Smith and Lissa  Thompson from Richie Smith Associates of Memphis, who will be working with the extensive gardens and the Historic Farm and Town Center component of the project, were all on hand.
Later in the morning, these architects, designers and planners moved to the Obion County Public Library to brief representatives of the volunteer committees who have been working on the project since it was announced in the fall of 2007.
These committees have never given up on their dreams — even when the project seemed stalled a year ago as its first architect and the DPA board of directors parted company. With the hiring of a new architect and design team just after the calendar changed to 2010, the committees gained new enthusiasm.
Just recently, several new items that will find homes in the complex have been either received as donations or purchased for the project and are being moved to storage in the area. These include — in addition to the World War II training plane — an actual working grist mill, which will be among the most impressive outdoor features; another log cabin; additional “bones” and “stones” to tell the story not only of the local area throughout history, but of the earth itself; and an antique toy farm implements collection.
The multi-million dollar project is being financed, in large measure, by the Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation and is envisioned as a site filled with wonder that will attract visitors from across the nation and around the world. Perhaps of more importance for the Kirklands, however, is the opportunity for the people among whom they have made their home for most of their lives to enjoy frequent return trips to the site as new exhibits are opened. They want their friends and neighbors — especially children and youth — to utilize the site not only to expand their knowledge but to enjoy a variety of programs in the outdoor amphitheater and savor the beauty of the extensive gardens and water features planned for the complex.
Today, that dream took a giant Discovery step forward.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.22.10

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