Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

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Marco Polo replica project .. . gets injection $10,000


Cindy Wilson/Special to the Telegraph-Journal Barry Ogden holds up a cheque for $10,000 from the Regional Development Corporation, which will be used to hire a coordinator for the replica project's volunteers.

Project less than $60,000 away from fundraising goal

BY MIKE MULLEN
Telegraph-Journal

    It's permanent location on a redeveloped Saint John waterfront remains undecided.
   But with an injection of $10,000 in provincial seed money Monday, all sails now appear set for a quick construction start on a $260,000 scaleddown, land-based replica of the famed sailing ship Marco Polo.
   Barry Ogden, the Saint John High School teacher who has been striving to get the project off the ground for 18 years, said the Regional Development Corporation money will go a long way toward achieving his goal.
   "I'm ecstatic and excited," Mr. Ogden said moments after being presented a cheque by Training and Employment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney during a news conference held in the Saint John Waterfront Development Partnership's boardroom.
   "We're going to be hiring a fulltime coordinator to help coordinate the volunteers in building the ship," the president of Market Polo Project Inc. added. "It's ready to take off. . . The wood is sitting down on the waterfront (in Pugsley C Shed). And everything is just coming together."
   He introduced Bob Coes, a retired Simonds Middle School teacher with a technical vocational background, as the man who would oversee the building of the replica.
   "Construction could begin anytime, actually," Mr. Coes said. "In fact, I have an appointment with one of the volunteers today. He would like to meet me about the lofting aspect. This is where you lay out lines for the frames. And this has to be done first with the modification we've made to the plans.
   Both Mr. Ogden and Mr. Coes said they expect the hull of the vessel to be completed by spring, after which it would be moved to an! approved waterfront site where the remainder of the replicas would constructed fully in the public eye. Plans call for it to be completed by 2006.
   Mr. Ogden said the project has already raised in excess of $200,000 in funding and gifts in kind but needs to raise more of both. That's only a fraction of the $28 million proposal for a full-scale sailing replica that he began pushing in the early 1990s.
   It was Mr. Coes who suggested modifications to the project plans earlier this year that will allow people to go inside the replica, as well as walk on its decks. The model that's being built is a one-third scale, non-sailing, flatbottomed version that is 27 metres (90-foot) long with an 18-metre (60foot) mast.
   Bill McMackin, president of the Waterfront Development Partnership, believes the land-based replica of the Marco Polo will enhance the city's waterfront.
   "From Waterfront Development's perspective, what we're trying to do is really lead a bit of a renaissance in downtown Saint John both from a tourism and development point of view," he said. "The potential is for this to be another piece of our downtown that tourists will come and visit, that locals will come and learn from."
    Mr. Ogden said he sees the Marco Polo project, along with things like harbour cleanup and the twinning of major highways in and out of Saint John, as extremely important to the city's growth. "I know myself, as a teacher, what really drives me is I want our young people to stay and attract new people," he said.
   The original Marco Polo was launched April 17, 1851, from the yard of James Smith at Marsh Creek. On her most famous voyage, she said from Liverpool to Australia in just 76 days making her the fastest ship in the world. Previous voyages had taken 100 to 120 days. She sank off Cavendish, P.E.I. in 1883.

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