Clipper group offers to buy ship for $1 05/31:
A group dedicated to saving the Milwaukee Clipper and bringing it back to Muskegon has offered to purchase the former car ferry for $1. But the ship's rapidly deteriorating condition may halt the effort.
A Muskegon-based group calling itself The Great Lakes Clipper Preservation Association Inc. appeared this week before the Hammond, Ind., Port Authority in the hopes of saving the ship and bringing it back to its former home port. Under the plan presented, the group wants to purchase the ship for $1 from the authority and have it towed back to Muskegon as a maritime museum and convention center.
The port authority, which has owned the answer financial and logistical questions surrounding the plan. Port authority officials are anxious to find a new owner for the ship, which is at a temporary berth in the Calumet River south of Chicago.
Jim Plant, who heads the group that has been labeled "Clipper Huggers" by Hammond-area media, said the Muskegon offer appears to be the only one on the table designed to save the ship, which operated year-round out of Muskegon from 1941 through 1970. The only other interest is from scrap dealers.
Organizers, he said, hope to have a Hammond-based casino finance the estimated $20,000 towing fee as a contribution to help Hammond clean up its waterfront.
The group, he said, also has a verbal commitment that would allow the ship to be berthed at the West Michigan Dock & Market Corp. The proposal presented to the port authority estimates it would cost $100,000 to partially restore the vessel.
But Plant said the six-person delegation that toured the ship Tuesday was shocked by the deterioration and vandalism that has occurred since the ship was removed from the Hammond Marina 14 months ago. The 500-pound ship's bell, dating back to the ship's earlier career as the passenger ship Juniata, recently was stolen. Rust is attacking the hull, and interior paint is pealing badly because the ship was not heated during the past winter. Plant said the group is so concerned by the ship's condition it may reconsider its effort to bring the ship back to Muskegon.
The group will meet Tuesday to decide whether to continue its effort to save the Clipper. "We were very disappointed when we toured the ship," Plan said. "There has been a lot of vandalism and deterioration. As it sits today, we cannot bring it back into Muskegon's harbor without a lot of people questioning what we are doing."
Robert J. Nelson, director of the Hammond Marina and a staff member for the port authority, said among their concerns is the apparent lack of financial backing, a specific site to berth the ship and the absence of endorsements by local government and business leaders.
Nelson said after trying to find a new home for the Clipper for more than two years, the port authority may have no choice but to sell the ship for scrap.
"The last thing the Hammond Port Authority would like to see is the boat go up for auction and sold for scrap," he said.
Reported by: Chuck Vincent
Edited from a story by TERRY JUDD appearing in Friday's Muskegon Chronicle