Port plans towboat museum
By D.R. STEWART Tulsa World Staff Writer 12/17/99
A towboat museum may be pulling into view at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, port officials said Thursday.
After several unsuccessful grant proposals to philanthropic organizations over the past two years, the Arkansas River Historical Society and trustees of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority have learned that federal money may be available to restore and refurbish a 29-year- old towboat as a classroom and museum.
Port Director Bob Portiss said up to 75 percent of the $431,000 renovation cost of the port- owned M/V Charley Border may be available through an omnibus federal transportation bill, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Grants would be administered by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Portiss said.
Deputy Port Director Dick Voth said the 1971 20-by-50-foot, twin-propeller Charley Border is valued at $125,000.
"The hull needs to be replaced, and the cost exceeded $100,000," Voth said.
Voth said the port staff recommends that the port donate the value of the towboat as part of its 25 percent local matching funding for the project. Under the proposal, the port would heat, cool and provide janitorial services for the classroom-museum while the historical society would operate and maintain the facility.
The port operates two other working towboats, the 1997 M/V Col. Babe Wilson and the 1981 M/V Glade Kirkpatrick.
The Charley Border was built by the Greenville Shipbuilding Corp., of Greenville, Miss., and was named for C.A. Border, a former member of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and an early booster of the Arkansas River Navigation System. The towboat was dedicated the same day as the Port of Catoosa: Feb. 20, 1971.
Voth said the towboat would be sandblasted, cleaned, painted and refurbished and hauled to a location between the port's helicopter pad and its administrative building at 5350 Cimarron Road. Earth would be removed from an embankment so that the hull would be half-enclosed by an earthen berm, enabling visitors to walk in the hull at ground level.
The hull, or ground floor of the towboat would be a heated and air-conditioned classroom that would be adjacent to the historical society-operated port museum, Voth said. of the Charley Border would be designed to walk through, but they wouldn't be heated or air conditioned," Voth said.
Jeff Jones, president of the historical society, said the towboat classroom-museum could be a milestone for the port and northeastern Oklahoma.
"We have a lot of grand ideas for this project," Jones said. "We're looking forward to having children coming through the Charley Border and we're thinking about virtual navigation in the pilot house with some kind of a GPS (global positioning satellite) system. It would be something where you could "pilot" the boat down the river" in a waterborne form of an aircraft simulator, Jones said.
The board approved the donation of the towboat as the local matching share, directed staff to apply for federal grant money and approved the hiring of the Dewberry Design Group to prepare preliminary plans and cost estimates.
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