By CAROL COMEGNO
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,"
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
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.