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Goodyear playground becomes state park
State buys former company park to allow public access and create 75th state park
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


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Tim Rudell
 
Ohio's newest state park is a former retreat for Goodyear employees.
Courtesy of Tim Rudell, WKSU
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In The Region:
Something unusual is happening in a corner of Portage County. Tucked into the rolling countryside near the Stark and Summit county lines, a new state park is opening...and WKSU's Tim Rudell reports that hasn't happened anywhere in Ohio for nearly 25 years. It's also happening at a time when the state park system is facing big environmental and financial challenges.
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Timeline for Wingfoot Lake, Ohio’s newest state park
1916: Goodyear buys 720 acres southeast of Akron in Portage County
March 1917: Construction of blimp hangar and Navy airships begins
1917-21: Operated as a U.S. Naval Airship Training Station. Training site of first Nay airship pilots
July 19, 1920: Hangar fire destroys two airships filled with hydrogen
1925: Goodyear builds first U.S. commercially licensed blimp in 1925
Through late 1941: More than 100 airships erected and flown at Wingfoot Lake
1942: Hangar lengthened to 800 feet. Goodyear’s small hangar relocated from East Coast to Wingfoot.
1943: Goodyear dedicates memorial plague at Wingfoot Lake for "Navy officers trained at Wingfoot Lake who gave their lives in the course of airship development"
1942-1944: 104 Navy airships erected at Wingfoot Lake
1945: Wingfoot hangar used to make helicopter and airship parts and telephone transmission antennas
1949-1955: Employment reaches 700. Fifteen Naval airships erected, tested, and delivered to the Navy.
Late ‘50s: Wingfoot  becomes the most complete radar test facility in U.S.
1962: Name changes to Wingfoot Lake Test Operations
1972: Wingfoot closes; is placed on “caretaker” status. Volunteer fire departments use buildings for firefighter practice
1974: Goodyear uses part of hangar for development of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
1985:  Department of Energy cancels gas centrifuge program.
1980-2006: Goodyear operates Wingfoot as recreational area for Goodyear employees and families, including a miniature golf course, baseball fields, volleyball courts, fishing, and boating
2006: Goodyear closes Wingfoot
2009: Ohio Department of Natural Resources purchases land, adding 86 acres
 
Wingfoot Lake Facts
·         Nicknamed “The Kitty Hawk of Lighter-Than-Air”
·         When Goodyear first acquired the land for Wingfoot Lake, it included one of Portage County’s original homes, built by Abraham Himebaugh in 1845.
·         Initial length of Wingfoot Lake hangar: 100 feet wide, 90 feet high, 200 feet long. Doubled to 400 feet.
·         Figure balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade were test flown at Wingfoot Lake in the 1950s.
·         The largest non-rigid airship ever flown, the ZPG-3W at 1,465,000 cubic feet, was built at Wingfoot Lake.
·         At its peak, nearly 100,000 Goodyear employees visited Wingfoot Lake every year.
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