Living Classrooms taking over 3 ships Torsk, 2 others had been threatened with closing in June

September 06, 1996|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced yesterday that Living Classrooms Foundation would take over operation of the USS Torsk and two other historic ships in the Inner Harbor.

The three ships, collectively known as the Baltimore Maritime Museum, were threatened with closing in June.

The group that has operated the attraction since 1992, Friends of the Baltimore Maritime Museum, said it needed a city subsidy to cover operating deficits, and the city said it had no money available.

Living Classrooms offered to take over the ships without a

subsidy, and presented a formal proposal to the city. The Friends group submitted a revised proposal as well.

Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, chose the Living Classrooms proposal, and the selection was ratified by the mayor. M. J. Brodie, director of BDC, said the Friends proposal still projected operating deficits and would have retained only two of the ships.

Brodie termed the Living Classrooms plan "a stronger proposal," adding, "The history of Living Classrooms is really quite excellent in terms of fund raising and imaginative programs."

James Piper Bond, president of Living Classrooms, said his group currently raises about $2 million a year to support a variety of "hands-on" educational programs.

He said he is confident that Living Classrooms can raise enough through admissions and fund raising to operate and maintain the ships -- the Torsk, a World War II submarine; the Lightship Chesapeake; and the Coast Guard Cutter Roger Brooke Taney.

Living Classrooms currently operates about 35 different programs serving about 35,000 students a year, Bond said. Its oldest program, and perhaps its best known, is the sailing ship Lady Maryland, but it also operates programs ranging from an oyster sanctuary to a farm in Harford County.

Its programs, he said, are designed to offer the type of group problem-solving activities called for in Maryland's statewide school testing program. For example, he said, Baltimore County students this summer had to imagine that they were 19th century captains, designing a rubber-band-powered paddle boat to compete for business hauling oysters -- and, along the way, learning lessons about history, math, science and economics.

The three harbor ships will be repaired using $800,000 in city bond funds, Brodie said.

Then, Bond said, Living Classrooms will begin using them as part of its educational programs.

He said the classroom trips would not preclude tourist visits; on the contrary, "we will increase visitor numbers by bringing the ships alive, with activities that are very visible to the general public.

Currently, he said, both tourists and student groups sail on the Minnie V, a skipjack based in the Inner Harbor and also operated by Living Classrooms for the city.

The Torsk and lightship will remain in their current berths west of the aquarium, Brodie said. The Taney, now east of the aquarium, will move to a harbor location not yet determined.

All three ships are on loan to the city from federal agencies. The Torsk, which docked in the harbor in 1972, is one of the oldest of the Harbor attractions. The Chesapeake joined it in 1981 and the Taney in 1992. That year, the city's parks department turned TTC operation of the ships over to Friends of the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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