Rhode Island and Maine groups agree to work together to ensure aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy comes to New England as a public attraction and museum.
In an August 3 email to the Navy’s Ship Donation Program office, Richard J.Fitzgerald announced the Portland group’s intention to withdraw from the competition so that valuable time, money and resources could be applied productively, rather than to a competition that could bleed both efforts.
Realizing that such competition hinders the ability of either party to generate the critical mass of local, regional and national political support necessary to successfully execute a project of this magnitude, USS John F Kennedy Museum/Maine (USSJFKM) and the RI Aviation Hall of Fame, Inc. (RIAHOF) negotiated an agreement in July to develop a joint strategy for bringing the aircraft carrier to New England.
“I came away from my conversations with the Navy convinced that the probability of getting the ship to New England would be greater if the two organizations worked together toward that common goal,” said Fitzgerald. “While we believe that Portland would still be a good location for the ship, Rhode Island was further down the road with their plans and fundraising, and it therefore makes sense to play that hand out first,” Fitzgerald concluded.
Earlier this year, the Navy described RIAHOF as “the sole viable candidate”, but still gave the Maine group six months to catch up in the competition.
“That wasn’t great for either of us,” said Frank Lennon, who heads up the RI effort. “This project only succeeds if we raise enough money for it, and it is doubly difficult to raise money if both parties are trying to do so at the same time for the same project.”
The USS John F Kennedy Museum/Maine (USSJFKM) will now assist the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame (RIAHOF) in its efforts to bring the ship to Narragansett Bay as a family attraction, education center and memorial. “We look forward to the opportunity of saving the JFK …for the ship’s veterans and for all of New England,” wrote Fitzgerald.