Saving the Clamagore has turned out to be a bigger job than veterans of the submarine imagined, and they reasonably asked for more time to raise the $3 million needed for its repair. To its credit, the Patriots Point Development Authority has agreed to give them until mid-2014.
That date, a year longer than PPDA staff recommended, ought to be open for further negotiation if the Clamagore vets can demonstrate some significant progress. And Patriots Point should be willing to assist the fund-raising effort to ensure the sub’s preservation.
The Clamagore Veterans Association members have sentimental associations with the sub, but they also recognize its value as a relic of the Cold War and as the last existing vessel of its type in the world.
In a recent audit of Patriots Point, the state Legislative Audit Council cited the importance of the submarine, both historically and for the state naval and maritime museum.
It urged the Patriots Point Development Authority to use its existing capital reserve funds to restore the Clamagore, which it described as second only to the Yorktown as an attraction at the museum.
But the PPDA is mainly focused on developing a plan to get the museum on firmer financial footing and ultimately undertake the much larger restoration of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, its central attraction. It sees the rusting Clamagore as a potential liability, particularly if it sinks at its berth.
That possibility increases during hurricane season.
Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point, tells us the PPDA agreed to the extension. As part of the agreement, the authority will get periodic updates.
The PPDA will also continue to pursue a permit from the Navy to dispose of the submarine, as an offshore reef, if the fund-raising effort falls short.
“We need to see progress,” Mr. Burdette says.
Clamagore Association President Bob Dewar of Florida says the organization hopes a professional fund-raiser can assist the effort, and that a major donor can be located.
Former Clamagore commander Don Ulmer has spoken with Boeing about committing $1.5 million in matching funds, but has not received a firm commitment.
Mr. Ulmer was employed by Boeing for 17 years after he retired from the Navy.
Mr. Dewar believes that local support from the hospitality industry, the chamber of commerce and local government will be essential to success. “I’m surprised that Mount Pleasant hasn’t done more,” he says.
Meanwhile, Patriots Point is experiencing an upturn in its financial picture. It should be willing to contribute, too.
But it’s clear that the Clamagore Association is going to have to get the ball rolling. Unlike large vessels, the sub has a limited base of veterans from which to draw.
They will need all the help they can get to advance their effort to preserve this one-of-a-kind historic sub. It’s a worthy goal.