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Naval Park awaiting bids to replace submarine deck

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Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park
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Cadets board the U.S.S. Little Rock

If you think your home's patio deck needs work, think about the deck of a ship that is 610' long or the deck of a submarine that is 312' long. Much of the decks of the vessels at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park are wood and a considerable construction project.

From above, the wood on the deck of the U.S.S. Croaker submarine is very obvious because in the middle is a walkway of treated southern yellow pine flanked by rotting cedar. The Naval Park is waiting for bids to come in to replace that cedar.

The bids are already in on a major replacement of the deteriorating cedar on the U.S.S. Little Rock. When completed, replacement of the decking with the nearly maintenance-free composite will cost around $500,000.

"The whole deck replacement that we did here on the starboard side, this was budgeted right at about $150,000," said Park Superintendent John Branning. "And the new contract for the existing wood that's still on the ship is in excess of about $350,000."

When new, both the U.S.S. Croaker and U.S.S. Little Rock had teak decks, which require a lot of maintenance. But, at the time, there were plenty of crew members to do the maintenance. For example, the Little Rock had a crew of 1,400. Branning has six people to maintain everything in the Park.

There is even more aging cedar on the U.S.S. Little Rock cruiser than on the U.S.S Croaker. Some already has been replaced with a composite many can recognize from their own backyard decks.

"It's not real wood. It is a poly board," said Branning. "It is kind of what people are putting on their decks today because it will last 35 years with minimal work - and it does look pretty close to what teak would be after it's weathered a little bit and when it would be holy stoned, what they called it in the Navy, back in the day."

Branning said even composite is not cheap when there is so much of it.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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