BOSTON – Yesterday, Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) filed legislation to complete the long-anticipated restoration of the historic Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey. Senator Montigny has long supported the vessel’s restoration in collaboration with Representative Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford).

Since 2015, the vessel has been undergoing a complete restoration at Boothbay Harbor, Maine thanks to a $2.5 million legislative earmark and generous donations from Philanthropists H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest and Robert Hildreth, totaling approximately $2.8 million. The Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association (SEMA) also pledged $1 million.

With Phase I of the restoration project nearly complete, long-term plans to ensure the vessel’s operations and maintenance are now underway. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy will assume control of the Commonwealth’s official vessel to provide for its operations and maintenance. The Academy, with the assistance of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, will ensure the Ernestina-Morrissey is docked in New Bedford at no cost for residents, school children, and tourists when not in use for training or official voyages.

These plans, however, are dependent upon legislation to formally transfer the vessel to the Academy and state appropriations to ensure the annual operations and maintenance needs are funded. In May, Montigny worked with Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues and Senator Viriato deMacedo to secure $500,000 in the FY20 Senate Budget.

In addition to funding, Senator Montigny also began drafting legislation in April to effectuate the Ernestina-Morrissey’s transfer to the Academy. Input from the Academy, DCR, and other interested stakeholders was solicited and included in the bill. Montigny also ensured that the bill designates New Bedford as the vessel’s home port in perpetuity and requires significant access for New Bedford school children at no cost. The Ernestina-Morrissey will also be made available in New Bedford for major cultural events such as the annual Cape Verdean Recognition Week.

The legislation directs the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to collaborate with New Bedford and the Cape Verdean community to ensure this level of public access for New Bedford. Montigny has now filed the bill and requested his legislative colleagues support the measure. These key legislators include Representatives Antonio Cabral, Christopher Hendricks, Christopher Markey, Paul Schmid, William Straus, David Vieira, and Senator Viriato deMacedo.

“The Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey is a public treasure that the people of New Bedford have stewarded for many years. It is exciting that we are getting very close to the vessel returning to her homeport so that our children and families can board, sail, and explore this historic ship that means so much to our Cape Verdean community,” said Senator Montigny, who has secured millions of dollars in state funding for the Ernestina-Morrissey during his Senate career.

--Sen. Montigny's Office

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