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david k petersen

History Column Dave Petersen

Ludington's history is steeped in Maritime lore and tradition. Thousands of it's residents have been a part of that history and it runs deep in the blood of the community. On Monday June 12th the Ludington City Commission voted to apply for ownership of the Coast Guard Building and for that I am thankful. With any luck the building will be preserved, but what happens then?

Many of you like me had thought that the building would become a museum that would make history come alive and showcase and preserve our rich maritime history. When the Ludington on the Lake campaign was Re-launched last year speeches were given at the carferry festival that this would become a part of the maritime trails and the communities regional marketing of the area as a place with attractions that visitors could build a trip around.

Even if you are not a fan of bringing in more tourists the linking of the Coast Guard Station as a Maritime Museum, to White Pine Village is a good idea. Promoting the Badger, the Coast Guard motor life boat 44345, Big Sauble and North Pier Lighthouse to a Maritime theme within the community makes sense.

We are about 100 years past due for a good cohesive marketing plan for the community. Studies have been done over the years of course and surveys taken, monikers have been picked to market the community from Ludington the Beautiful to A City for all Seasons. nothing seemed to stick, or really work for us the way it was hoped. When you talk to people from outside the area if they have heard of Ludington it's usually followed by "isn't that where the boats are?" A community moniker and theme that focuses on our natural resources and maritime history is a logical step IF we follow through on it.

A fly is in the Maritime Museum ointment though, some time back negotiations between the city and the Historical Society started to break down over the costs of renovation and who was going to foot the bill for it. Then there was the talk of having a food service vendor in the mess hall on the second floor of the building to help offset the costs of renovation and maintenance. From there it became a 150 seat restaurant in a larger part of the building and then the plan is approved for submission as a restaurant with "some" historical displays and maybe a children's cultural museum on the upper level. It seems that less and less of the structure was available for a museum and what remains are leftovers in the form of a historical display.

When I first heard that negotiations over the use as a museum were troubled last winter my first question was who wants to open a restaurant for their own pet project? It sounds more and more like the building will be a restaurant with a few pictures on the wall and I have doubts that those of us making less then 10.00 and hour will be able to afford the menu in what will likley become a 20.00 a plate haunt for the Condo Crowd and boaters tying up to the dock for a quick bite.

How does yet another restaurant fit into the development of the waterfront and our community marketing? Money is an issue with the city looking at revenues of 2,000.00 a month by letting a private enterprise install a restaurant in the building. We don't want to saddle the community with a revenue albatross, and shared use is the best use were comments I heard when discussing the buildings fate. No one however has been able to say how much money it might cost the City if the building were primarily a Museum, wouldn't knowing that be helpful in making a decision?

Preservation of our history does not have to be a stodgy dusty old thing, it can be a vibrant and lively part of our lives and our cultural image and activities. If the Historical Society were unable to muster the finances needed to support a Maritime Museum and a Restaurant was the only way to save the building then fine, but once money talked in favor of a Restaurant it appears a Port of Ludington Maritime Museum lost out.

Have all of the options for funding a maritime museum really been explored? It's not an issue of how often would you go to a Museum, many of us only go once every couple years to see the displays. People go back however for the activities and that is evidenced in the thousands who support the many activities that take place at White Pine Village every year.

The Historical Society believes it can create a self supporting Port of Ludington Maritime Museum and since they have succeeded in keeping White Pine Village alive and growing without a millage why should we doubt their ability to do the same with the Coast Guard Station. Personally I would like to see the city invest at least the same 50,000.00 into the project as was spent on building the clock tower. Creating one of the finest Maritime Museums in the State of Michigan really would be something we could be proud of. Call your city commissioner, let them know what you think and how you feel about the plans for the Coast Guard Station and what you would like to see done.

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