With a maritime history as rich as Del Norte County's from the first trips down the North American coast by native peoples during the Ice Age to the Japanese attack on the S.S. Emidio, from Spanish explorers to today's status as California's crab fishing capital, one might think there already would be a standing museum celebrating that heritage.
The good news is that fundraising for a $600,000 museum, organized by the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society, began last week.
Such a museum certainly would be another great attraction for our area. Though the Redwoods and ocean beaches are strong draws, one problem our area faces is a dearth of other activities. A museum in part addresses that problem.
By helping attract tourists, the maritime museum would generate dollars for businesses and local government. Tourists eat at our restaurants, stay at our lodging, gas up vehicles at our convenience stores and buy souvenirs at our shops. That translates to more profitable businesses, more jobs and definitely more sales tax revenue to police our streets, repair our roads and provide other needed government services.
A maritime museum could do far more than just bring tourists here, however it could be a key piece for revitalizing the Crescent City Harbor as that facility transitions from a working, commercial marina to one aimed at travelers. Indeed, the harbor needs an anchor (no pun intended) to bring in more capital dollars for restaurants, retailers and possibly a hotel. By attracting people into the harbor, the museum creates opportunities for other businesses to flourish there. As now envisioned, the museum would stand at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 101 and Citizen's Dock Road, which leads to Whaler Island.
Of course, after the arduous task of building the museum comes the equally difficult chore of operating it. The concept certainly is appealing enough that it warrants more study to determine that a maritime museum could succeed here. The community should rally to raise money for that research, and if it the numbers look good, enthusiastically get behind the project.