JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The USS Orleck arrived in Jacksonville on Saturday to become the centerpiece of Jacksonville’s naval museum, expected to open in June.
The city posted on Twitter at 9 am that the ship had just passed Naval Station Mayport and was headed up the St. Johns River to its temporary home on the Northbank.
The arrival featured plenty of fanfare as fireboats paraded the ship in, shooting water into the air.
The ship traveled under the Mathews Bridge about noon and under the Hart Bridge less than 10 minutes later as it trekked toward its new home along the Northbank Riverwalk in front of the Hyatt Regency. A line of onlookers along the riverbank cheered as the Orleck was finally pushed into place by a tug boat just before 1 pm and the US flag was raised on its bow.
“I was really excited when I learned they were actually going to have a ship here,” said Annette Stevenson.
It will be docked at the current location for several months until its permanent home off the Shipyards can be properly outfitted.
“Sometimes things take time. I’m just glad we were able to park it here for a period of time since it’s coming in early and its home will be ready at the right time,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said at a news conference Friday.
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Creating a naval museum in Jacksonville that features a floating piece of history has been in the works for 12 years. The original plans to bring the USS Adams to Jacksonville fell through, leaving organizers to find another ship, and the USS Orleck fit the bill.
“I come from a very long line of patriotic military members and I myself am very fortunate to work for our judicial branch of the government,” said Kimberly Barrett. “So seeing this means a lot to me.”
The Orleck is the most decorated post World War II ship as it fought in the Korean, Vietnam and Cold War periods. Converting it to a museum and moving it from Texas to Jacksonville cost a little more than $2 million.
“It says, finally, the Navy town, the third-largest Navy town in the US, finally gets a museum ship, and we were the only ones without one,” said Craig Bernat, with the Jacksonville Naval Museum. “And the ship even though it wasn’t the Adams, this is the second most historic ship that the Navy has, so that says a lot right there the history of the ship.”
There are some who are concerned that the permanent site is not ready ahead of the ship’s arrival. But Lori Boyer, head of the Downtown Investment Authority, said it should all work out.
“Not all of the conditions of docking at Pier One have been satisfied, but that’s not to say we think there is any problem with their ability to satisfy them. I think they will do that,” Boyer said.
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