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Coast Guard museum plan still in limbo

New London The president of the National Coast Guard Museum Association said Friday his group still supports putting a museum in the city but is in a holding pattern as the Coast Guard evaluates possible sites.

"We have a long stretch of riverfront from the Coast Guard Academy to Fort Trumbull, and somewhere, sooner or later, we'll have a museum,'' James Coleman Jr. said from his office in New Orleans.

Anne B. Brengle, president of the Coast Guard Foundation, which is based in Stonington, said the group is also waiting for the Coast Guard and the museum association to agree on a site.

"We are standing by to help get organized,'' she said.

In 2008, the foundation announced plans for a 60,000-square-foot museum that would be built on the waterfront at Fort Trumbull. But the stagnant economy and lackluster funding put the project on hold.

In 2010, a grassroots group emerged, promoting the city's train station as a possible location for the museum. Todd O'Donnell, who owns the station, has drawn up a conceptual plan for a museum inside the depot, which was designed by the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and built in the 1880s.

O'Donnell has shown the drawings to various downtown merchants but said he is not ready to discuss them publicly.

Coleman, who has seen the plans, said it is premature to say whether it is a possible site.

The association is working with the Coast Guard to find a site for the museum in New London, and engineers and designers are looking at what is feasible, he said.

"It's complicated. We would be dealing with ferries and the water,'' he said of the train station location. "We are very much looking at what can be done, but we are not in a position yet to say we can do it."

Fort Trumbull is still a possibility, but Riverside Park "is not on our agenda" as a possible site, he said. City voters in November rejected the sale of about half of the park to the Coast Guard for academy expansion.

After the vote, City Center District, which comprises downtown merchants and property owners, organized a "New London Loves USCG'' campaign. The group is handing out decals and armbands and collecting valentines in support of the Coast Guard Academy. Red and white heart placards are on display in restaurants and stores and are in each window of the train station.

The campaign will culminate Tuesday, Valentine's Day, at the train station with Coast Guard Appreciation Day.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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