Popularity of Greenville’s Runway Park soars
Lara Kaufmann began emailing and calling Greenville Downtown Airport Director Joe Frasher almost immediately after moving to Greenville from the Atlanta area in 2010. A stay-at-home Mom, Kaufmann wanted the airport to consider building a park like the one her family enjoyed at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
“Lara emailed me several times, then started calling me, then began stopping by the office to talk about a park,” Frasher said. “I knew she was looking for a job, so I hired her.”
Kaufmann’s first task was to find a restaurateur to open in an empty building facing the airport’s runway. Once that was achieved, the airport commission agreed to donate the use of about an acre-and-a-half of its non-aviation land for a park.
With the Runway Café open for business, Kaufmann began fundraising for a park, each year doing as much as possible with the funds raised including grading, fencing and planting grass. A younger children’s playset came first, then one for older children, then a picnic hangar.
Today, Runway Park at Greenville Downtown Airport is an Upstate destination where schoolchildren and families can have fun and learn more about aviation. Free and open to the public from dawn until dusk, the park features an educational amphitheater, a “Perimeter Taxiway” for exercising and walking “Runways”. Its centerpiece is an aviation-themed playground including a Bi-plane “Climber”, a Cessna 310 static display, 17 educational signs and a 15-foot cross section of a Boeing 737 fuselage.
In 2018, the park received a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. And more recognition is sure to follow as the number of park visitors continues to rise with the opening of the Swamp Rabbit Trail extension less than a quarter mile from the park.
In addition to being a spot for free family fun, Frasher and Kaufmann see Runway Park as a way to introduce children to aviation and aviation-related jobs.
“The Upstate is attracting many aviation companies and they are having a hard time finding skilled workers,” Frasher said. “We’re hopeful that exposure to aviation will inspire some kids to enter engineering, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance or to become a pilot or CNC Machinist. All of these are high-paying jobs that need to be filled locally.”
With the park nearly complete, Kaufmann is now applying for grants, planning more fundraisers and seeking financial help to pave the parking lot next to the park to serve Runway Park, the Swamp Rabbit Trail Spur that is under construction and the developing Military History Center of the Carolinas.