Museum ship may call Port Clinton home port

Nonprofit seeks city help in finding funds to bring island assault ship to waterfront as museum PORT CLINTON A bit of
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

Nonprofit seeks city help in finding funds to bring island assault ship to waterfront as museum

PORT CLINTON

A bit of floating history could dock in Port Clinton by spring if the wind blows in some funding.

John Nowakowski, co-founder of The Last Patrol Inc. of Swanton, Ohio, is working with Port Clinton officials to bring a "floating museum" to the area.

The retired military ship, LSM-45, was involved in several major island assaults during World War II, Nowakowski said.

The ship, of a type called LSM, or Landing Ship-Medium, could be moved from U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Port Clinton before April. The cost of getting it here would be $100,000-$120,000.

The Last Patrol, a non-profit organization, is not asking the city to pay for the move, but instead help look for funding.

"Everything is in place. We've basically got the OK from the city, and it's just a matter of finding the funding," Nowakowski said. "We just have to sign for the ship and she'll be ready to come in."

Outgoing Mayor Tom Brown said he will travel to Washington D.C. in January and speak with the House of Representatives and the Senate to secure funding.

"I just hope that they realize that this project will bring the economy up," Brown said. "I'm cautiously optimistic."

Nowakowski said the ship could bring in an average of 40,000 visitors a year based on a 2007 economic impact study by the Historic Naval Ship Association.

Port Clinton, a summer tourist jump-off point for the Lake Erie islands, would likely be a good fit for the ship.

"Having that tourism established -- they're going to go and see this," Nowakowski said. "I think they're going to be excited."

In Wilmington, N.C., USS North Carolina, a 728-foot World War II battleship, has been a huge draw, said Connie Nelson, spokeswoman for the city's visitor's bureau.

"Our battleship is our third most popular attraction," Nelson said. "It's really a big part of not only our tourism, but our local culture and river front landscape."

Brown said local residents are interested in the prospect of a military ship near Port Clinton.

"We have a lot of veterans in Ottawa County and a lot of Navy veterans," Brown said. "Some people have served on these landing crafts. I want to do this in the name of the veterans."

The 203-foot landing ship would need some cosmetic work and likely be docked near the upcoming development of Water Works Park.

The cosmetic work -- painting, welding and equipment installations among other outfitting-- could cost another $100,000. Nowakowski said he would ultimately like to repair the boat so it's operational, which could cost about $1 million.

If the ship docks in Port Clinton, the group would rely on volunteer work and donations to refurbish and restore it.

"We want to make it look like it was in back in World War II," Nowakowski said.

Newly-elected Councilman Mike Snider said he would love to see the vessel come to Port Clinton, but said the council will consider several questions before it's moved.

"Conceptually, it sounds pretty cool, but we'll have to see how it works out," Snider said. "We have to see how it fits with the development at Water Works Park."

If everything goes well, Nowakowski said LSM-45 could possibly be joined by a WWII-era hospital ship Sanctuary, one of four U.S. Navy destroyers or the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis.

Nowakowski said the ships would definitely have a "hands-on" appeal, focusing on educational programs for children.

"We're happy if the adults want to learn history, but our main goal is getting kids excited about our history," Nowakowski said.