An iconic site in Hawaii that's been closed for more than a year is on track to reopen sometime this fall and a group of Navy volunteers is making sure the USS Arizona Memorial will look it's best when visitors step onboard again.
The memorial has been closed since May 2018, after a boat operator noticed a crack in the supporting structure for the visitor loading dock and the damage was revealed to have been related to a "much larger issue."
With the discovery of the cracks, officials found that the pier had shifted nearly three feet away from the memorial, pulling on the access ramp and damaging an attachment bolt. The pier is held in place by chains and concrete blocks.
The memorial marks the final resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona battleship during the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack was the opening salvo in the United States’ involvement in World War II.
In March, the National Park Service awarded a $2.1 million contract to repair the anchoring system for the memorial dock. By July 10, the NPS said the floating dock was reinstalled and will be followed by the installation of the Seaflex mooring system.
“They have installed a brand new anchoring system and they’ve reset the dock,” Glen Fickbohm, facility manager for the Arizona Memorial for the National Park Service, told KHON on Monday. “Next week they’re going to work on putting the bridge back in place and the ramp and we’re going to finish our cleanup work and open the memorial here real soon."
Park officials have said the memorial is on track to reopen at some point during fall 2019, and in time for the Dec. 7 remembrance ceremony "provided no issues arise during the construction period."
As the memorial inches closer to reopening, several groups of Navy volunteers have been going to the site in recent weeks to help clean it up.
“Our goal is to preserve it to the best that we can so that when it gets restored and the visitors come onboard, all they focus on is the importance of the memorial,” Eric Moore, president of the Mustang Association Hawaii Chapter, told KHON.
The NPS recently shared a video on Twitter of volunteers giving the interior of the memorial a fresh coat of paint.
In addition to painting the structure, volunteers also worked to buff and shine railings, in addition to replacing light bulbs.
“It doesn’t even feel like a volunteer event, it feels like I’ve won the lottery,” Lt. CMDR Jeremy Reed, Outgoing Operations Officer NSSC at Pearl Harbor, told KHON.
While visitors have not been allowed to disembark onto the memorial, they have been able to view a documentary and participate in a narrated harbor tour surrounding the memorial during its closure.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, including the free museums, shoreside exhibits, snack shop and Pacific Historic Parks Bookstore, are still open.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.