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Save the Olympia

The USS Olympia, a proud and historic preserved vessel is in serious trouble and needs help. Below is reposted with permission a letter written bt Mark S. Daniel to lawmakers in the State in which she is currently birthed. Please get a hold of your lawmakers if you live in the area. Otherwise please donate to the Friends of the Cruiser Olympia if you can. If she can’t find supporters she may end up as a reef!

Sample letter below

Our Commonwealth is facing economic strictures.  The Commonwealth budget has been a crisis point for the last several years.  The local industries are suffering from lack of employment.  For instance, one of Philadelphia ‘s major local industries, Aker Shipbuilding, is laying off workers because it has no new orders coming in.

Separate but related to this is the fate of the USS Olympia, docked at the Philadelphia Independence Seaport Museum .  It is suffering from decades of inadequate care and maintenance.

Olympia is also facing a crisis–if repairs are not accomplished, it is doomed to an ignoble fate–to be sunk as part of an artificial reef off Cape May , NJ.

The Olympia currently requires $20 million in estimated repairs and refurbishment, including drydocking and hull restoration–it has been “patched” as a temporary fix to keep leakages from sinking the ship.  Part of the cost of this would be the dredging of a channel from its silted-in anchorage out to the Delaware River .  Ostensibly, this dredging effort would be required to remove Olympia in any case.

This ship is an iconic piece of history that served with great distinction in the Spanish-American War.  Its story resides in our popular culture–who has not heard “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley” as one of the catch-phrases of our language?  Olympia is the only ship remaining of that conflict. The Olympia had the honor to carry the remains of the Unknown Soldier from France to the US following the First World War. Olympia is a National Historic Landmark. The ship’s then state-of-the-art triple-expansion engines are National Engineering Landmarks. The ship is currently one of Pennsylvania ‘s historical tourism attractions.

My proposal:

1. Enjoin the Federal government to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers assets to perform the channel dredging.  This is soft money, for personnel and equipment already in the employ of the federal government.  The Corps’ job has been primarily to maintain navigable waterways and dredge them in flood control efforts. It has also had a historical association in the construction and conservation of other historical sites–Breed’s Hill in Boston and the Washington Monument in D.C.  Could this operation not be assigned as a “training exercise” as part of the North Atlantic Region Philadelphia District’s “Delaware River Deepening Project”?

2. Have the Olympia towed the few miles downriver to a local shipyard to have them dry-dock the ship to halt the deterioration.  Restoration of the historical details could follow after the continued existence of the ship is assured; the details may be financed by more conventional means, like admission to the ship and private donations.

3. Employ Aker Shipbuilding, or any local shipyard in need of a contract, to perform the essential repairs to make the hull intact and watertight. With this done and the integrity of the ship assured, the other repairs could proceed at a less frantic pace.  The funds paid to the yard would provide jobs and income to local residents; the funds would then disseminate to local businesses to offset the economic downturn’s impact.

4. Employ creative financing methods that have a low impact on the Commonwealth budget.  A dedicated Olympia bond issue, a checkbox on Pennsylvania and local income tax forms for $1 to be donated to the restoration effort, and perhaps the issue of a PennDOT license plate with an Olympia motif, would all offset the expenses entailed in the project.

5. Use the Commonwealth’s political influence to leverage the US Navy into assisting in reclaiming one of her own ships and preserving a major part of her own history.

This is another sad case of history repeating itself, when in 1830 the USS Constitution, long left to rot at its berth and slated for scrapping, was saved at the last minute by a public outcry, led by the famous poem written exactly 180 years ago by Oliver Wendell Holmes–“Old Ironsides”.

Pennsylvania has always prided itself on its links to history; much of its tourism trade depends on it. Please use your influence and your contacts in the government to help save the Olympia , employ local industry, and support the economy of Pennsylvania .

Yours very truly,