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Navy museum will be a great tourist draw for So. Maryland

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on February 08, 2002:

Senator Dyson I am pleased to be sponsoring an important bond bill this General Assembly Session. It is one that I believe will help fund what I envision will be a major tourism draw in Southern Maryland.

Senate Bill 602 will be used for the planning, design, construction, renovation, reconstruction, and capital equipping of the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum and Visitors Center in Lexington Park. I have requested the bond to be $500,000.

As with all bond bills, the state will fund $500,000, but only after it is matched by the museum’s board of directors, St. Mary’s County Commissioners, volunteer donors and other funding sources.

There are several reasons why I am supporting this legislation. In addition to it being a great tourism draw, it will show our state that we are proud of the partnership with the Patuxent River Naval Air Station which contributes close to $2 billion in tax revenue to Maryland’s economy. The Navy is truly a friend of Southern Maryland and always has been.

I have called this proposed museum “the Air and Space Museum of Southern Maryland.” The vision I share with all of the supporters of this facility is that this will be a state-of-the-art, interactive museum that will showcase the extraordinary history of this fine naval station.

Consider the fact that it was here that my friend and former colleague in the United States Congress Senator John Glenn as well as other legends such as the late Rear Admiral Alan Shepard, Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, Mercury Astronauts Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom and other astronauts and test pilots received their training. Their considerable legacy will be honored at this museum.

The Air and Space Museum in Washington is the most visited of the 60 Smithsonian Museums and galleries in the country drawing more than nine million visitors a year.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated by space. And when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the mid 1940s, we realized that space travel could be possible -- not just a dream perpetuated by cheesy B-movies.

When President Kennedy made his call to arms to send and return a man to and from the moon, the best and brightest test pilots in the country were enlisted to ensure President Kennedy’s dream became reality.

Thanks to the efforts of men like Glenn, Grissom, Lovell and so many others, we did get to the moon. Alan Shepard not only was the first American to be launched into space, he later went to the moon and even found time to play a little bit of golf at the same time.

The journey of these men and the support personnel on the ground who helped launch the Mercury and Apollo space missions will be highlighted at this museum.

But it will offer much more. It will celebrate all that Patuxent River has done for the community and for not just the space program, but more importantly for the Navy. It is here still today that the base is developing billion dollar technology that is strengthening our military especially during a time when we need it most.

If we build this museum, I am sure people will come in droves. Instead of driving into Washington, D.C. and spending their tourism dollars there, Southern Marylanders will have a similar draw as the Air and Space Museum in their own backyards. They will be spending their time and money here during a time when tourism revenue has dropped off.

And the museum will be an additional attraction for those wanting to make a day of enjoying Southern Maryland attractions such as the Calvert Marine Museum, St. Clement’s Island-Potomac River Museum, Historic St. Mary’s City and Point Lookout State Park, Jefferson Patterson Park, Battle Creek Nature Center, Sotterley plantation among many others. All are within 30 minutes or less of each other and provide a wide variety of history for all to savor. Imagine visiting the St. Clement’s Island museum and the island itself -- weather permitting where the first Marylanders stepped foot on ground then going to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station Museum which celebrates both the past and future of air and space travel and technology.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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