New London plans to (heart) Coast Guard even more during celebration next summer

New London — Whether it is the barque Eagle tied up at City Pier, the "NL (heart) USCG" signs that dot downtown storefront windows or uniformed service members strolling along Waterfront Park, the Coast Guard is a constant presence in New London.

Next summer, the city will be the epicenter of "Connecticut's Coast Guard Summer," an official designation from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to celebrate the Coast Guard's 225th anniversary, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Coast Guard Academy and the planned National Coast Guard Museum in downtown New London.

"The longtime presence of the U.S. Coast Guard in New London not only represents our state's rich maritime heritage but has also led to a strong partnership with the state that has driven economic development, tourism and industry for the region," Malloy said in a statement. "We are proud that the academy and our newest national landmark - the National Coast Guard Museum - call Connecticut home and chose the summer of 2015 to celebrate that partnership while honoring the important role the men and women of the Coast Guard have played throughout our country's history."

In addition to the Coast Guard Academy, which was formally established in 1915, New London is home to Coast Guard Station New London, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, the Marine Safety Lab, and the International Ice Patrol.

The National Coast Guard Museum is set to open on the city's downtown waterfront in 2018.

In a letter to the commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, Malloy asked that the Coast Guard send additional Coast Guard ships, aircraft and personnel to New London for the summer.

"Connecticut's Coast Guard Summer" will officially begin with the annual Sailfest festival, which is scheduled for July 10-12 and will be formally dedicated to the Coast Guard. The Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, scheduled for Sept. 10-12, will serve as the finale of the summer-long Coast Guard celebration.

The city, working with the state Office of Military Affairs, is planning a series of events for the 60 days between the two weekend festivals to further highlight the relationship between the city and Coast Guard.

And by the time "Connecticut's Coast Guard Summer" begins, New London could be recognized by Congress as a "Coast Guard City," a distinction bestowed upon communities that "have made special efforts to acknowledge the professional work of the Coast Guard men and women assigned to their area" and make "Coast Guard men and women and their families feel at home in their home away from home," according to the Coast Guard's community relations branch.

In August, the City Council endorsed the 40-page application, which detailed partnerships between the city and Coast Guard, and included letters of support from elected officials, business owners, community leaders, and clergy.

"From the cutter stationed here as a result of the Tariff Act of 1790, to the location in (1910) of the United States Coast Guard Academy in Fort Trumbull, to the groundbreaking for the modern academy in 1931, our city and the Coast Guard have grown and developed together," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio wrote. "It is hardly possible to think of one without the other."

New London's application is currently pending, though city and state officials said they expect it to be approved before the summer.

"For New London, the Coast Guard is not simple a neighbor, but a part of the fabric of the community and the larger southeastern Connecticut region," Congressman Joe Courtney wrote in support of the "Coast Guard City" designation. "To me, there is simply no better example of a city that is as closely connected to and supportive of the men and women of the Coast Guard than New London."

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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