2006-08-26 / News

Donations Needed To Support Cutter Mackinaw Museum

By Paul Gingras

The Mackinaw City Village Council agreed to provide a temporary historical marker to draw attention to the recently decommissioned Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, which now floats in public view of downtown Mackinaw City, but Council stated that it could not allow the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum (IMMM) to charge for tours until it completes its site plan and secures Village approval. IMMM is the organization in control of the vessel.

The public will be able to walk the decks of the Mackinaw Saturday, September 2, through Monday, September 4, where they will find donation boxes "all over the place" to benefit the museum project, said Marilyn McFarland of the Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau, who addressed Council.

There will be people there to answer questions and informational signs will be placed on board to explain aspects of the ship, she added. Ms. McFarland said the Visitors Bureau hopes to draw in 30,000 visitors to view the Mackinaw over Labor Day weekend.

IMMM desperately needs funding, said councilwoman and IMMM member Sandra

Planisek. The sudden arrival of the vessel Friday, June 30, and the fact that it came with no funding, has had the organization scrambling to prepare it for public viewing for most of the summer. IMMM is now between $60,000 and $70,000 in debt and calling on the Village for help getting the museum started.

"It's like someone handed us a 290-foot skyscraper, and now we have to figure out how to turn it into a business," Ms. McFarland told The Town Crier.

Dick Moehl, also a member of IMMM, expressed frustration that his group has not been able to charge for tours, even though IMMM needs funding and tourists have been besieging the organization for access to the vessel. These tourists are willing to pay, Mr. Moehl said, but owing to the lack of an approved site plan, the group has had to turn them away. IMMM, he added, needs the revenue to help pay for the site plan itself.

Steve Schnell, community development director, offered to be part of an ad hoc committee to help IMMM prepare the vessel for public viewing.

Village President Robert Heilman said the group is likely to receive many donations over Labor Day weekend, but Village zoning regulations forbid Council from allowing IMMM to charge for

tours. Allowing paid tours prior to securing an approved site plan could open the Village to litigation if anyone were hurt, he said.

Since it gained control of the vessel, IMMM has established a volunteer database, installed phone and cable lines, prepared for the sale of onboard fuel, graded the dock, cleaned the ship, connected it to the village's electrical grid, begun a site plan, secured all vertical ladders, produced merchandise, installed a security system, and installed bollards.

Once the site plan is finished and IMMM is ready, the public will be able to take part in guided tours inside the ship, Ms. McFarland said.

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