BY LORAINE ANDERSON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — An agreement struck Tuesday between a boat preservation group and Emmett County appears to have saved the wooden boat The Welcome from a watery burial at the bottom of Grand Traverse Bay.
Instead, the dilapidated replica of a 1774 fur-trading ship eventually is destined to be trucked back home — to Mackinaw City, where she was built and originally berthed for the nation’s 1976 Bicentennial celebration.
The Maritime Heritage Alliance board, in a preliminary vote, decided unanimously Monday night to sell the boat to Emmet County for $1, said Rod Jones, president of the Traverse City-based historic boat preservation group.
“They were just tickled and we felt the relationship would be good,” Jones said.
Emmet County leaders want to put a roof over The Welcome and preserve her as an indoor display in the entry of a proposed new building that would house a heritage museum, and possibly a conference center and planetarium at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City.
“And it’s even called the Welcome,’’ Laurie Gaetano, Emmet County’s parks and recreation director said of the vessel. “What could be a better name for the center?”
Emmet County commissioners, in a meeting Tuesday, directed Gaetano and county staff to work with the MHA board on a memorandum of agreement on when and how the replica would be moved, insurance and other details before the $1 sale can be finalized.
Emmet’s interest in the boat comes in the wake of a MHA board decision in August to seek a state permit to sink the deteriorating 55-foot-long Welcome in Grand Traverse Bay as a dive attraction unless a better alternative turned up.
On Oct. 25, Emmet County commissioners and engineer came to Traverse City to inspect the ship, said a relieved Jones, who like many MHA members wanted to see the replica preserved indoors to keep it from rotting more.
Emmet County is in the early stages of discussing and planning a years-long renovation project at the park in the 600-acre Headlands preserve that stretches along Lake Michigan between I-75 and Wilderness State Park. It is one of about dozen such parks in the world.