Sunday, January 01, 2006

Submarine Museum Sees Potential Silver Lining


The Day
By Ben Johnson
May 14, 2005

The Nautilus awaits visitors at the Submarine Force
Library and Museum Friday next to the Naval Submarine
Base in Groton. Photo Suzanne Ouellette.

Groton — The president of the Submarine Force Library and Museum said Friday that every dark cloud has a bright spot, and right now the region needs to find the silver lining in the potential closing of the Naval Submarine Base.

“I think that if the base actually does close,” said retired Rear Adm. David Goebel, “we actually need some land to expand the museum, and we should look to the closing to get some land as part of the transfer process.”

Goebel, a former naval officer and currently the director of the New London Development Corp., is the president of the Submarine Force Library and Museum Association. He served on the board of directors of the facility, which exhibits the first nuclear-powered submarine, Nautilus, for five years. He said there had been talk of moving the museum to another location if the base closed, but he believes the move is unlikely.

Goebel also said that while the closing of the sub base would have a significant financial impact on the surrounding region, he “would envision no impact on anybody at the museum by this decision.”

The museum is the home of many historic Navy artifacts, including the Nautilus. Built at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton over 50 years ago, the Nautilus has proved a popular attraction since it was decommissioned and brought back to its birthplace in 1985.

The Navy provides security and maintenance for the Nautilus and other sections of the museum, with the association and a small group of civilian employees helping to run the facility.

Lt. Cmdr. Chris Slawson, right, officer in charge of the Submarine Force
Library and Museum, chats with visitors Tony Tamosaitis, left, of New
Mexico, and Chirleu Shefcyk, of Middletown, Friday.
Photo Suzanne Ouellette.

Joann Hamvy of Uncasville and her son, Doug, who lives in South Carolina, were visiting the museum on Friday. Joann Hamvy, who is 77, said at her age she had seen many changes, and while the proposed base closure would be unfortunate, it is the nature of things. Her son expressed stronger disapproval.

“Strategically, I think it would be a very bad idea to put all of the nation's submarines in just a few bases,” he said. “And I think moving the museum would be a mistake as well.”

Retired Capt. Mike Reigal, who serves as the museum's executive director and was commanding officer of the base when it was last on the BRAC list in 1993, said what would happen to the base and the museum is still uncertain.

“It is certainly a situation we've been looking at — that should the sub base close, we would hope to expand somewhat north into sub-base land for artifact storage,” he said. “But at this point we are just trying to find out as soon as we can what the Navy's plans are and trying to make some preparations.”

Both Reigal and Goebel pointed out that the state had fought hard to bring the Nautilus and the museum to the area, and they guessed that a suggestion to move the museum would meet with strong opposition.

“It would be difficult to imagine that, from a cost standpoint, it would make sense,” said Reigal.

“The state of Connecticut probably feels they have more rights to the Nautilus than the U.S. government does. It would kind of be rubbing salt in a wound, so to speak, closing the sub base and then turning around and taking the museum, too.”



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