Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Campaign for Sara Continues

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Campaign for Sara Continues

Article excerpt

Jacksonville officials applaud efforts of a group in Rhode Island to save carrier . . .

A thousand miles from the First Coast, a community group in Rhode Island has launched a campaign to do what Jacksonville couldn't -- save the Sara.

And the group has the blessing of some Jacksonville city officials.

City Council President Don Davis said the city is supportive of the group's efforts to convert the USS Saratoga into a museum and has even passed along engineering, environmental and feasibility studies done during Jacksonville's failed campaign.

"But I personally am very envious of them because the Saratoga should be moored in the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville," Davis said.

The Rhode Island group hopes to raise the massive aircraft carrier from the scrap heap and make it the flagship attraction of an air, land and sea park at the former Quonset Point Naval Air Station. The North Kingstown, R.I., carrier base closed in 1974.

The Saratoga, which was based at Mayport Naval Station from 1956 until its decommissioning in 1994, had been berthed at the Navy's ship graveyard in Philadelphia since 1995. When the shipyard closed, the Saratoga was moved last year to an abandoned Navy pier in Middletown, R.I.

"One of the main reasons we're interested is that the Saratoga is here," said Frank Lennon, who is heading up the drive. "It's only 33,000 feet away, and that's an easy tow."

Jacksonville's yearlong campaign to turn the Sara into a floating museum was scrapped when the project's start-up costs grew from $4.5 million to $6.8 million. The effort also fell almost $500,000 short of its $3 million private fund-raising goal.

But the money Jacksonville invested in the various feasibility studies hasn't been a waste, Lennon said. A lot of the information is still valid and is saving Rhode Island organizers thousands of dollars and months of work, he said. …

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