CAMDEN – Visitors walking the deck of the Battleship New Jersey museum must tread around dings and holes in rotted wood, but a new state grant will help finance ongoing deck replacement.
The New Jersey Historic Trust has approved $500,000 for deck work for the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum on the Camden waterfront.
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was to present the capital grant check to museum officials Thursday on the decorated World War War II-era ship.
After a winter hiatus, the museum will open weekends beginning Saturday and daily April 1. However, the tourist attraction is holding no events and only limited touring with social distancing and face masks required due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Piecemeal deck replacement began in 2015 by union carpenters and painters and has been continuing since then with limited funds. Some sections of the deck are tripping hazards because they had not been replaced since before the Vietnam War.
The museum has been unable to secure enough grants or donations of several million dollars to compete the project more quickly.
Phil Rowan, museum CEO and president, said the projected cost of replacing the 43,000 square feet of wood on the main and upper decks comes in a several million dollars. By the end of the year, the museum expects to have nearly half of the deck replaced with teak.
The museum is operating with a lower budget this year and has been unable rehire all of its former staff.
Rowan said the operating budget stands at $2.6 million, or 65 percent of pre-COVID 2019 spending.
The majority of this year's museum income, or $1.5 million, are grants from the state budget and from the Department of Environmental Protection. The ship cannot hold its popular, income-producing overnight encampment program nor rent the museum for events due to COVID concerns,
Carol Comegno loves telling stories about South Jersey history and our military veterans. Her book, “The Battleship USS New Jersey: From Birth to Berth” is the definitive history of the battleship. If you have a story to share, call her at 856-486-2473 or email email@example.com.