Support Local News.

We've been with you throughout the pandemic, and now as vaccines become more widely available, we are reporting on how our local schools, businesses and communities are returning to a more "normal" future. There's never been more of a need for the kind of local, independent and unbiased journalism that The Day produces.
Please support our work by subscribing today.

Why is no one planning The Coast Guard Museum at Fort Trumbull?

I reached out to National Coast Guard Museum Association officials in early October, before writing that it appears that the museum will never be built at the proposed site, on the wrong side of the railroad tracks on a flood plain in downtown New London.

After all, the nonprofit planning the museum has missed many years' worth of deadlines and goals for raising money.

The downtown museum was supposed to be open to visitors by now, but the organization has more recently dropped even the pretense of a schedule for starting construction and no longer makes regular announcements about its dismal fundraising.

I wasn't especially surprised that no one returned messages before I wrote about the status of the project. Clearly, no one wants to talk about it or answer questions.

More telling, no one called after the column suggesting the museum would never be built was published, to complain, demand a correction or present an alternative narrative.

The silence says all we need to hear.

So what happens next, as the well-staffed nonprofit continues to churn through donated money with no discernible prospect of ever meeting its goals?

Not only does it appear to be wasting donated money but the public is being cheated, too, as the state spends from its promised $20 million in bond money on elaborate designs and plans for a bridge across the railroad tracks, what looks now like a bridge to nowhere.

It looks like federal money is also at risk, with federal contributions already totaling $15 million, out of a promised $30 million.

We can't do much to stop the waste of donated private money, paying all those staffers for a project that will probably never be built. Those being paid certainly aren't going to suggest that the music stop.

But why are state and federal officials allowing this colossal waste of public money to continue? And why hasn't some or all the state and elected officials involved done something? Are they just going to wait more long years for nothing to happen and the piggy bank to finally run dry?

Of course there is a natural solution, which every politician in Connecticut ought to get behind and begin to claim credit for.

Some names that come to mind are Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, who should all be ashamed about the state and federal money being wasted on the failing project.

The museum should be built at New London's Fort Trumbull peninsula. There is a fabulous site there, alongside both a working Coast Guard Station and a magnificent, historic fort, part of a state park that already draws tourists.

The site work for the neighborhood is done. There is plenty of parking, incredible views, a nearby pier that hosts the Coast Guard barque Eagle and a rich, appropriate history, a site once used to train officers to go to sea.

The best site, inside the park, was not involved in the city's nasty eminent domain fight and that part of Fort Trumbull's history should have no bearing on a Coast Guard museum on the peninsula.

The $50 million already committed from state, federal and donated money is probably more than enough to get at least a small starter museum underway. Make it bigger later if it succeeds.

Until I get more help poking the politicians on this, I might suggest a local volunteer community group form to help bring about The Coast Guard Museum at Fort Trumbull.

I even have in mind a chairman for that group.

I'd like to nominate former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who already gets credit for the federal legislation that said the museum has to be built in New London.

Simmons has the energy, contacts, commitment and vision to see this through. It should be part of his legacy.

Someone needs to bang some heads together, make a lot of noise and help ensure that there will indeed be a tribute in New London to the brave men and women of the Coast Guard.

Simmons' retirement can wait.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


Loading comments...
Hide Comments