Maritime museum needs Juneau's help

Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2009

After reading Greg Fisk's Aug. 4 column, "Aged icebreaker would offset 'magic blingdom,'" and later Rep. Steven Lindsey's Aug. 6 column, "Juneau's tourist trap monoculture," I felt compelled to put in my two cents worth.

If you have served in the military, you always seem to remember the good things from your tours of duty and place the bad in the back of your memory. The USS Storis has always remained as a fond memory, even with all the time we spent in the Arctic Ocean when I was aboard. For this reason, when several old shipmates made the suggestion that the Storis be turned into a museum, I became interested and finally took the plunge and started to investigate the most likely place where we could put it, allowing the vessel to become a first-class maritime museum and education center.

The Storis spent 90 percent of her service in Alaska, based in both Juneau and Kodiak. Juneau, being Alaska's capital and having about 1 million visitors annually, seemed to be an appropriate place for a maritime museum. After many telephone calls and discussions with former crew members, historical buffs and other museum people, placing the Storis in downtown Juneau became the logical choice.

In addition, further investigation has shown that the Storis would be an ideal vessel for our purpose. If done correctly, the Storis can be set up as one of the major drawing points for visitors to Juneau. She is currently configured in a manner which will allow us to establish various areas throughout the vessel as specific historical themes, e.g., Storis, Coast Guard, Revenue Cutter Service, fishing industry, tugs and barges, ferries, cruise ships, and the list goes on. Additionally, her existing physical configuration makes her very suitable for the establishment of self-guided tours.

During the Storis' 64-plus years of service, with more than 50 of them in Alaska, Storis has enough history on her own to be a museum piece. She is ripe to be nominated to become a "Historical Place" in the National Register and I have been told there will be no problem in getting her approved for this honor. All in all, Storis should become a first class maritime museum, education center, possible training center and a showplace for the City of Juneau.

Just imagine coming aboard Storis from a floating dock along Juneau waterfront. You proceed into the crew areas and galley, make a decision to go up to the captain's cabin where the full history of Storis will be told and shown. Then you move up to the bridge where you may be able to take the helm and, with the use of modern technology, you can simulate operating the Storis in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. Perhaps, we can even take an imaginary trip through Wrangell Narrows on the simulator. Later, you can go down into the crew's berthing area, which is now configured into compartments, and go through the various tributes that will be established for all other Coast Guard cutters, Revenue Service cutters, fishing boats, tug boats, ferry boats, cruise ships and other fascinating marine history in Alaska waters. Those interested in the engineering and propulsion spaces may proceed further into the vessel's hull.

While we are very excited and eager to get things moving in order to accomplish the above goals, we do have several obstacles to get past in the near future.

First, we are continuing our efforts to have the necessary bill passed in Congress and enacted into law by President Obama, which will authorize the commandant of the Coast Guard to transfer the Storis' title to our nonprofit group. We are working diligently on this project and are confident that such a bill will be passed late this year or early in 2010.

Secondly, we are now at the point where we really need the help of the citizens of Juneau. Specifically, we ask that the citizens contact their city officials, including dock and harbor managers, requesting a place to put the 230-foot long Storis when we bring it back to Alaska. It is understood that proposed new docking and waterfront changes are now being considered, and we need a space for the Storis in that area.

Recently, I completed my annual visit to Juneau and was very pleased to note that at virtually every place I went, most everyone to whom I spoke was very receptive to having the Storis returned and made into an outstanding maritime museum and education center. As we know, Juneau is a small city where everyone is extremely friendly and seems to know everyone else.

Please help us by calling and visiting your local officials and ask them to move forward the proposed new docking and waterfront changes that are needed to enhance tourism and provide a home for the Storis Museum.

Please visit our Web site at www.storismuseum.org and join us in bringing Storis back to Juneau and making her into a first class museum, education center and training platform.

• Jim Loback is president of the Storis Museum and is a former crew member of the vessel. He now resides in Fountain Valley, Calif.



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