Island PHoto Op: A Friend in Washington
By Peter Huston
Every weekday since the Miller Ferry resumed service, you may have noticed the trucks rumbling up and down Langram Road. Loads of stone, fencing, supplies, heavy equipment and supporting contractors arriving for the two-year project to rebuild the crumbling seawalls that guard the north and south shoreline at Perry’s Victory.
Nothing impacts South Bass Island more year after year than Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. Since the day it opened in 1915, it’s attention-getting 352 tall “Doric” column has been an irresistible draw for visitors. It stands as our most important connection to that significant moment on Sept. 10th, 1813, during the War of 1812, when O.H. Perry defeated the British fleet in what became known as “Battle of Lake Erie.”
There are 423 National Park Service Parks in the US, 25 war memorials, but only one International Peace Memorial. The National Park Service’s mission is to preserve, protect and share our nation’s special places and stories. Nearly 200,000 people a year visit according to the NPS website. Over the nearly 40 years that Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has represented our island, she has shown unwavering support for South Bass Island, the National Park Service and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. As senior member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, she has worked to keep Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial a sacred reminder of the lives lost on both sides during the War of 1812.
Keeping Perry’s Victory open and staffed is a critical component of our island’s annual tourism. In the 1980s many may remember that PEVI went through a full restoration. Then there were subsequent critical repairs most recently in 2010 and 2017. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congresswoman Kaptur led on securing $7,636,000 for Phase 1 of the Memorial’s rehabilitation plan, including repairs to the 90-year-old elevator system. All needed special appropriation. Unfortunately, other important repairs and maintenance over the years had to be deferred.
Neglected for many years, the seawalls had become undercut by wave action and needed to be replaced. Thanks to Marcy Kaptur’s help as senior member of the House of Representative Appropriations Committee, she was able to assure that the $29.6 million appropriation requested in 2020 would be funded through the National Park Service’s Line-Item Construction program. This program addresses the repair or replacement of high priority facilities in national parks, things like repairing the crumbling sea walls at Perry’s Victory.
But its more than just appropriations. In 2014, when the NPS was going to eliminate the full-time monument superintendent position and plans were in motion to combine Perry’s Victory with the Michigan Park River Baisin we turned to Congresswoman Kaptur for help. With her support and guidance we were able to marshall bipartisan support from all Ohio’s congressional representatives and senators to intervene with NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis to maintain the full-time Ohio based Superintendent position here on South Bass. It was an important victory for the island and the region.
Probably the biggest event this area has seen was the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial In 2013. As the Perry Group planned for the biggest on the water re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie, Congresswoman Kaptur stepped up to help us navigate the many difficult US government obstacles that were in play during that year of US budget sequestration. She helped us to promote the event and presided over the launching of “Perry’s Longboat” and later attended just about every major event of the Bicentennial. The Perry Group and the island were so amazingly fortunate to have a true friend in Washington. The Monument and the island enjoy a unique place in history and Congresswoman Kaptur has been a loyal steward of that legacy.