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Famous Skipjack Desperately Needs Repairs

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Ron Matz is an Emmy award-winning reporter who joined the Eyewitness...
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ST. MICHAELS, Md. (WJZ) — Rosie Parks was built in 1955 and was one of the most famous skipjacks to ever sail the Chesapeake Bay.  But now she desperately needs repairs.

Ron Matz has more from St. Michaels on the plan to restore a piece of Chesapeake Bay history. 

Marc Barto is a man on a mission.  At the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, he’s in charge of the restoration of the Rosie Parks.

“We’re in the very early stages of the project. What we’re trying to do is stabilize the transom.  We started working on the keel and we’ve started going forward underneath the boat.  We’re trying to stabilize the boat, like the foundation of a house,” said Barto, Rosie Parks project manager.

It’s a painstaking process.  Legendary boat builder Bronza Parks built Rosie. She has a special pedigree and a place in Eastern Shore history.

“She was built by Bronza Parks, a very famous boat builder in Dorchester County. In 1955 he employed 30 to 40 men. He built the Rosie Parks, the Lady Katy and the Martha Lewis, side by side; three of these at one time. Rosie was the fastest skipjack in the fleet,” said Barto.

Shipwright apprentice Jennifer Kuhn is helping make Rosie whole again.

“I love it.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s great to be a part of history.  It’s really neat working at the museum.  I really enjoy the work and it’s very physical,” said Kuhn.

“What we’re trying to do is get her back into an archival position so when people come to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum they will see the original Bronza Parks boat,” said Barto. “I want to include everybody in the project: the community, the town, the family.  When it’s all said and done we’ll have Rosie back. How cool would that be?”

The restoration project will take about three years.  When it’s completed Rosie should appear just as she did when she was launched in 1955.

“It’s wonderful. This project is not just about this boat.  It’s about the family, the stories, the history.  It’s multi-faceted.  I’m meeting all these family members who are coming to see the boat.  It’s been a great experience so far and we’re only getting started,” said Barto.  “She’s the most original skipjack we have on the bay right now.  When we’re done it’s going to be the most original historic vessel on the bay.”

The restoration of the Rosie Parks is expected to cost $500,000, all of it being funded with private donations. For more information on the project and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, click here.

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