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Tuesday September 16th 2014

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Outfield Aircraft Carrier?

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What’s next for the Community Maritime Park? How about a 1,067-foot long aircraft carrier off of right field?

There is currently a push, and accompanying online petition, to explore such a project. The group is suggesting the USS Forrestal be docked locally, near the ballpark, and transformed into a maritime museum.

“It would be just a monster economic driver,” said Mark Taylor, who has launched the Restore Pensacola Forrestal Project.

The specifics of the project—which entail saving the Forrestal from being scrapped, restoring it for an estimated $30 million into a museum, and involving the Naval Aviation Museum, the University of West Florida and, possibly, BP’s RESTORE money—are outlined on a website. Taylor said the concept is still fresh—“literally, it’s 24 hours old”—but has generated some interest in the community.

“Now, Nancy Fetterman called me at lunchtime,” he said.

Taylor has had maritime park on the brain. He’s up for consideration today for a seat on the Community Maritime Park Association Board of Trustees. He said the Forrestal museum could be a way to address some of the park’s financial concerns, drawing people to the park.

Taylor said the Forrestal Project is not connected with his potential CMPA seat. He intends to explore the concept regardless of his confirmation to the board.

“This is totally independent of that,” Taylor said. “I’m always trying to brainstorm and think of what we can do to make Pensacola better.”

To back up the argument for bringing an aircraft carrier to Pensacola, Taylor points to other locales that have similar attractions.

“It brings a million visitors to San Diego,” he said, also noting that the USS Lexington—once in Pensacola—now draws visitors to Corpus Christie, Texas.

More information about the USS Forestal can be found at www.ussforrestal.org/

The Pensacola City Council will discuss the filling of two CMPA board seats—being considered are Taylor and Fred Gunther—during its Committee of the Whole meeting today, 3:15 p.m., at Pensacola City Hall.