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South Jersey

Friday, March 23, 2001

Kids temporarily banned from battleship

Visit these related links:
  • Complete USS New Jersey coverage
  • Official USS New Jersey site
    Courier-Post Staff

    The Home Port Alliance is temporarily barring youth volunteers from working aboard the battleship USS New Jersey until it formulates a policy on allowing youngsters on the ship.

    The alliance's board of trustees has no policy on youth volunteers. But the board has safety concerns and expects to address the issue next week at its Wednesday meeting, said alliance spokeswoman Liz Thomas.

    This week the staff called about 10 youth groups, including Girl Scouts in Camden County, to inform them of the pending policy decision.

    "I am told they were called by staff and told the youth program was canceled," Thomas said. "However, the wording used was inappropriate considering the board has not taken an action on the issue."

    Alliance staff members have been bringing children on board to help clean the ship, which is docked at Pier 1 at the Broadway Terminal of the South Jersey Port Corp. in South Camden and undergoing repairs.

    "Several hundred children ages 8 to high school have been coming through the ship in groups for several months," Thomas said.

    At least two trustees raised the issue at a committee meeting this week, she said.

    "They suggested the alliance look seriously into whether it is appropriate to allow elementary-aged children on board the ship while it is being refurbished," Thomas said.

    She also said the ship will be moved next week from Pier 1 to an adjacent pier, a new location that is less accessible and could be more prone to accidents.

    Alliance solicitor Philip Norcross said safety is a critical issue - particularly for children under 16 - because the ship is under repair and is located in a working port around heavy equipment. He said he became aware only this week that younger children were being allowed on board.

    Contractors, staff and adult volunteers are authorized to work on the ship.

    Youth groups have been visiting on recent weekends to help spruce up the ship in anticipation of its Sept. 2 opening as a floating museum on the Camden Waterfront near the New Jersey State Aquarium. Its 16 battle stars make it one of the most highly decorated ships in Navy history. The New Jersey, designated by the Navy as BB-62, helped win battles during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War and was last retired in 1991.

    Last weekend, teen-agers from the Collingswood Municipal Alliance and high-schoolers from Philadelphia helped lift mooring lines and sweep the interior.

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