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‘The sky is truly the limit’ for Aviation Technology Park in Weyers Cave

Rebecca Barnabi
Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

Airplanes soared overhead carrying passengers to distant destinations last Monday morning at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport as community members gathered to celebrate an Aviation Technology Park.

“This milestone is a testament to the dedication and vision of all of those who have been involved,” Maggie Ragon, city of Staunton representative on Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport Commission, said.

In 2001, Airport Road was relocated with the vision of future development at the Weyers Cave airport.

Funding for the park was made possible by grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development and U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Commonwealth’s award of an Enhanced Capacity Building grant provided funding for infrastructure design and engineering in 2021, and a second grant in 2022 for utility work. Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater is the park’s first investor with a land lease and construction of an airplane hangar.

Dynamic Aviation President & CEO Mike Stoltzfus said the company exists “to solve big problems” with the power of flight.

In 1989, Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in the Prince William Sound, considered the largest environmental disaster in the United States. From the disaster, Marine Spill Response Corp. (MSRC) was created, as well as regulations to mitigate future disasters.

In 2010, Dynamic responded to Deepwater Horizon, an off-shore drilling rig operated by BP which exploded and spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“It was surreal,” Stoltzfus said.

The Aviation Tech Park in Weyers Cave will allow Dynamic to respond to environmental disasters from Maine down to Barbados and over to Corpus Christi.

Fifteen years ago, he said he spoke with now-former SVRA executive director Greg Campbell about the importance of having a larger aircraft to help with similar disasters.

A ribbon cutting for the Aviation Technology Park at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport was held Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

“We would have never imagined it would have taken so long,” Stoltzfus said.

But the airport commission’s efforts created the reality of a Tech Park.

“I’m really, really pleased to be a part of this this morning to celebrate what I believe is a transformational project for the Shenandoah Valley,” Campbell said.

Blue Ridge Community College will conduct an aviation program at the Aviation Park and train future pilots.

“We realized there were unique assets and opportunities in the region that made sense to develop this Aviation Technology Park,” Campbell said.

Campbell thanked Dynamic Aviation for its investment in Virginia.

“Aviation airspace and general aviation are soaring in Virginia. The demand of aviation facilities and infrastructure have never been greater and we only expect that to increase significantly in the years to come,” Campbell said. Demand is also great across the U.S.

The park in Weyers Cave will create jobs and opportunities in the Shenandoah Valley, where collaboration of community members is “truly impressive.”

SVRA Executive Director Lisa Botkin said the ribbon cutting was “a significant milestone for the Shenandoah Valley Airport, for our region and we’re continuing to prepare for more to come in the next few years.”

New airplane hangars are part of the design of the Aviation Technology Park at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

Last week marked phase 1 completion of the 58-acre park. A utilities relocation project on Airport Road funded by GO Virginia will make way for phase 2 of the Aviation Park.

“This is a win-win for the airport and our local economic development partners,” Botkin said.

In spring or early summer of 2024, work will begin on the new entranceway to the park, which will be “a straight shot in from Airport Road and provide direct access into the Tech Park, which is currently off of Valley Church Road.”

According to Botkin, the Aviation Tech Park will “become a thriving hub of new aviation-related business opportunity for our region and the Commonwealth as a whole.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.