I am posting sad news.
Based on information we received in the past few days, we are suspending our full-time efforts in pursuit of the donation of the USS John F Kennedy. (See details below).
Instead, we will redouble our efforts to develop a land-based facility at the former Quonset Point Naval Air Station, which would incorporate museums and memorials for the USS John F Kennedy and USS Saratoga, as well as a permanent home for the RI Aviation Hall of Fame.
At the same time we will keep a pilot light lit in hopes that a permanent mooring solution may arise prior to the day that CV-67 is towed away to be scrapped. (From past experience, we believe that date is years in the future.)
Despite the Navy’s announcement earlier this year of their plans to dismantle JFK, we continued to work behind the scenes to develop an alternative berthing location and plan that would be solid enough to return CV-67 to donation status.
Last November, we were approached in confidence by representatives of a Fortune 500 company. We were told that this company had a potential mooring location available, along with enough acreage to support the parking and infrastructure we would need. Over the next three months, supported by donations to the Engineering Fund, we worked with their engineers to develop a conceptual proposal. We presented that proposal to this company at the end of February.
We were initially encouraged by the positive feedback we received at the regional level. However, communication dried up by early summer, and last week we received word that this company had shelved the JFK proposal while they evaluated other uses for their site.
There is still a chance that at some point down the road this company will reconsider the JFK option. However, we can no longer sustain full-time pursuit of the carrier with the chances of success being so slim.
While the fat lady has not yet sung, she is clearing her throat and we must accept that reality.
Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, Inc. (RIAHOF) has fought for eight years to bring USS JFK to Narragansett Bay. Even if the Navy continues with its plans to dismantle CV-67, we do not plan to give up and walk away. To do so would be a slap in the face to the volunteers who have worked more than one hundred thousand hours in pursuit of this goal–to say nothing of the many contributors from all over the country and the world who have helped keep this dream alive with their donations.
If we are unable to save the ship named JFK, we must find another way to honor all the JFK sailors who served so honorably in her. It would be foolhardy for us to just give up and allow all those years of hard work and all the money spent so far to simply go down the drain with nothing to show for it. Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, Inc. fully intends to accomplish its mission of preserving our naval and aviation history, and if one means of doing that is closed off to us, we must find another.
The Foundation’s non-profit mission was (and still is) to develop a world-class family attraction, education center, job training facility and memorial. Our fallback solution is to develop a land-based facility that will accomplish that mission.
In that facility we plan to allocate significant space for a USS John F Kennedy museum and memorial, as well as a permanent home for the RI Aviation Hall of Fame and a commemoration of all US Navy vessels bearing the name Saratoga.
We have collected a wealth of memorabilia and artifacts over the years, and we firmly believe that it would be criminal to allow that material to sit in a warehouse to deteriorate, away from the public eye.
While Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame works its way through this transition, the infrastructure we have built up over the years will continue to grow and serve our community. At the same time we will continue to work with the various organizations that have partnered with us over the years.
The bottom line is that our non-profit cause (and entity) will continue on for the foreseeable future. RIAHOF, in conjunction with our sister entity, the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, will also continue to operate many of the other worthy projects launched over the past several years—to include a number of our educational initiatives.
— Frank Lennon