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New London - The city is looking to become a "Coast Guard City."
The service bestows the designation on select cities that have gone above and beyond to acknowledge the contributions of Coast Guard men and women assigned to their area, and made them, and their families, feel at home.
The idea to go after the title has come up before. But Kristin Havrilla Clarke, the city's director of development and planning, said she doesn't think New London ever submitted an application, and the success of the city's Operation Sail event renewed the desire to do so.
"There's such a strong wave of enthusiasm right now related to everything that happened with OpSail and sort of an appreciation, I think, for the military presence that's here in southeastern Connecticut," Clarke said Friday.
Leading a parade of military and tall ships, the Coast Guard barque Eagle sailed into the city July 7 with nearly all of its large white sails set and filled with the wind.
The parade of sail kicked off the OpSail events in New London to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Eagle is based in New London. The Coast Guard Academy, Coast Guard Band, Coast Guard Station New London, Research and Development Center, International Ice Patrol and Marine Safety Lab also call the city home. The Coast Guard is looking at sites in New London for a National Coast Guard Museum, which the commandant has called breaking ground on during his tenure one of his highest priorities.
"We should be able to make a case for what a fine city New London is in support of the Coast Guard," said Bob Ross, executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut's military affairs committee. "It's an important distinction for the city and I think we would all be very proud of it."
Ross also said the recent success of OpSail brought the idea "back to (the) forefront," particularly since the city and Coast Guard have been planning the event together for the past year.
Clarke is assembling the application to show the city's longtime support of the Coast Guard with help from the Chamber and other local organizations.
She expects to submit it early this fall.
"Aside from having the honor to call yourself a Coast Guard City and different signage, it's really just a recognition," Clarke said. "It shows your community's longstanding commitment to the Coast Guard and to the men and women of the Coast Guard."
The 14 Coast Guard Cities include Grand Haven, Mich., Kodiak, Alaska, and Newburyport, Mass.
Congress enacted a law that allowed Grand Haven to be formally called "Coast Guard City, USA," in 1998. Grand Haven holds a large annual festival for the Coast Guard. The head of the Coast Guard can name other Coast Guard Cities by providing a notice of intent to Congress.
COAST GUARD CITIES
To date, 14 cities have been designated Coast Guard Cities:
Grand Haven, Mich.
Traverse City, Mich.