The Day, December 14, 2020, by Kimberly Drelich
Groton — A proposal to create a USS Groton Sail memorial in an area adjacent to the Groton Public Library and the Groton Senior Center site along Route 117 is moving forward.
The Groton Town Council recently approved an agreement between the town and the USS Groton Sail Foundation that will enable the memorial to be built in an area roughly from the road curb to the library site, said retired Rear Adm. John Padgett, the chairman of the Groton Sail Foundation.
Padgett said the monument is intended to honor the men and women of Electric Boat who designed and constructed submarines and those who served on submarines, as well as to celebrate Groton as “the submarine capital of the world.” The town is also home to the Naval Submarine Base.
Town Manager John Burt said the Memorandum of Understanding stipulates that the Groton Sail Foundation will transfer $91,500 to the town to purchase the state-owned property along Route 117. The foundation will continue to fundraise to pay for the costs associated with the restoration of the USS Groton Sail and the creation of a memorial at the site.
The foundation will continue to fundraise for a year after the memorial is complete and then turn over the funds to the town for use toward maintenance of the memorial, he said. The town will keep the money from the foundation in a separate fund.
The Memorandum of Understanding will next head to the Representative Town Meeting, likely in January, for approval, and then the foundation will go back to the Navy to seek final approval for the site, Padgett said.
Other steps include reengaging with fundraising and environmental remediation of the sail and rudder, Padgett said. He anticipates a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new memorial could be held in mid-2022, but he notes that it’s an “aspirational timeline.”
About six years ago, city and town officials discussed with the Navy the idea of getting the sail and rudder of the USS Groton from the Navy to use as part of a monument, Padgett said.
Padgett said Capt. Raymond “Bill” Vogel, the commissioning commanding officer of the USS Groton who passed away in February, started the foundation and addressed how to create a memorial, including the logistical issues associated with returning the sail and the rudder of USS Groton back to Connecticut.
The foundation looked at a couple of other potential sites, but they did not work out as expected, Padgett said. Vogel along with other leaders in the foundation then sought the site by the public library.
Padgett said the proposed site is centrally located with easy access from Interstate 95 and Route 1, and is a place where people already congregate because of the library. The design ties the sail memorial to the library site to show the link between the submarine force and the town, and to recognize and include all the people, both in the military and civilians, that contribute to the success of the US submarine force.
A proposed rendering by Chad Frost of Kent + Frost Landscape Architects shows the monument for the USS Groton sail and rudder will include a “planted earthen berm to simulate” a full-size submarine, along with plaques, signage, historical markers and a memorial wall. It will also include, among other features, a “Community Connection Walk” to “celebrate the connection” of what Electric Boat and the Naval Submarine Base means to Groton, according to the rendering.
Burt said the creation of the monument with the sail and rudder of the USS Groton, the submarine named after the town, “is a chance to honor not only the sailors that served on her, but also the broader Navy and its importance to this town.”
“It represents not only our history but that of the country as well,” he added.