Coast Guard museum: Launching the future in New London

Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day A rendering of the proposed United States Coast Guard Museum released Friday, April 5, 2013 during presentation by United States Coast Guard Museum Association at the Science and Technology Magnet School of Southeastern Connecticut in New London.

Editor's note: The original version of this story was published with an early rendering of the exterior of the proposed museum. This version includes the most up-to-date rendering.

The sweeping bow-shaped design of the planned National Coast Guard Museum is a tribute to New London's rich maritime heritage. Its proposed location on the waterfront is a celebration of New London's critical role in shaping the nation's nautical history and traditions.

Yes, the museum's central purpose is to showcase the Coast Guard, but we are designing it to respect and reflect New London's seagoing roots. Most of the residents of the city, New London County and the state see the museum as a major step forward in reviving a city that many view as in need of an investment of this nature.

What better place to locate the museum than in the heart of the city, on its harbor, aside one of the state's most important and thriving transportation hubs. Is there a better place to exhibit some of the Coast Guard's floating assets than the New London waterfront? These assets include Coast Guard Barque Eagle and Lifeboat CG36500, the vessel involved in one of the most significant rescue operations in the annals of Coast Guard history.

Imagine the economic benefit of the museum to New London's downtown with an additional 500,000 people visiting annually. These visitors will boost and grow local business as they shop, eat and come back again.

New London will become a destination, rather than a city that people drive past on Interstate 95. Imagine the enthusiasm that the museum will engender, establishing the Connecticut Heritage Trail with New London as its focus. Imagine if the museum motivates our Port Authority to invest in a water taxi system to connect downtown to Groton, Fort Trumbull and Fort Griswold. The city's investment in its mooring field, floating docks and pier will begin to pay off by attracting more visiting boaters.

Parking will not be an issue. Electric Boat's lack of parking has become an economic boon for some people in the garage business. Certain property owners have plans to build more parking to accommodate both EB and visitors to the Coast Guard Museum. Parking plans will be part of the presentation of the site plan later this year.

There should be no issue with the city selling the land on which the museum will be located to the Coast Guard for $1. The site is less than half an acre (21,737 square feet) and is presently providing no significant return to the city. New London's contribution of the land speaks to the city's commitment to the museum.

The United States Coast Guard deserves a museum to celebrate its 224-year history. Downtown New London is the perfect location. The proposed museum will benefit the Coast Guard, will benefit the state and will benefit all of us in the City of New London.

John S. Johnson is treasurer of the National Coast Guard Museum Association.

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