The USS Torsk World War II submarine and two other historic ships that had been threatened with closing will be operated for at least three years by a nonprofit foundation that runs educational programs on land and at sea.
City officials said yesterday that the three vessels moored at the Inner Harbor -- known collectively as the Baltimore Maritime Museum -- would be operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation, which hopes to make them key elements of a Baltimore Maritime History Park.
The city will provide about $750,000 for repairs to the submarine, the Lightship Chesapeake and the Coast Guard cutter Roger Brooke Taney. The foundation plans to enliven the ships with a host of interactive displays, light shows and sound effects simulating those of the sub and ships at sea.
A lease and management agreement, approved by the Board of Estimates Wednesday, puts to rest doubts about the fate of the historic ships.
Friends of the Baltimore Maritime Museum, the nonprofit operator of the museum since 1992, had said in September that the facilities would close unless the organization could get at least $1 million in city funds to stay afloat.
But Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke turned to Living Classrooms in September to run the attraction, at first temporarily and now for three years.
James Piper Bond, president of Living Classrooms, predicted that the Baltimore Maritime History Park would draw well over 1 million visitors annually by the year 2000.
The park will include the ships, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and other maritime-related attractions that the foundation is developing.
The park will double as a tourist and educational attraction for out-of-town visitors and local schoolchildren, Bond said.
The ships themselves will provide a fitting tribute to veterans and Baltimore's rich maritime heritage, said Bond, the son of a World War II officer who fought at Normandy during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
"We take this over fresh, so we are going to bring these ships alive. Our goal is, when you come onto the Taney, you will be able to almost go into battle, and when you step onto the sub, you hear exactly what you would on a real submarine."
Schmoke said the agreement preserves the Inner Harbor attractions, beset by years of declining attendance, without any city subsidies beyond the money for repairs.
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 arrived in 1992.
That year, the city parks department turned over operation of the ships to the Friends of the Baltimore Maritime Museum.
Pub Date: 1/31/97