KITTY HAWK, N.C. — The Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk reopened to visitors Wednesday morning.
A hearty few gathered for the ribbon-cutting and the trek to the top of the winding stairs for the grand, panoramic view from the monument's observation platform.
Bill Owen remembers standing on the platform as a boy in the '50s. Wednesday, he was among the first to take in the view. "They've done an excellent job and (it's) something that was way past due," he said.
Access to the interior of the monument had been limited over the past 15 years due to disrepair and dangerous conditions.
The National Park Service, which hosts the monument on the Outer Banks, acknowledged that the monument needed work, but did not have the funds to get it done.
The First Flight Foundation, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience at the Wright Brothers site, raised the money for the renovations through sales of commemorative items related to the 2003 centennial of the first flight.
In all, the project cost $400,000 and took about six months to complete.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is open seven days a week, year-round. Access to the interior and the observation platform will be limited, and reservations are suggested.