OCEAN CITY – An addition to Ocean City’s list of attractions is on the horizon for this summer with the proposal to bring the historical tall ship Nao Victorian Galeon to the area to provide tours and exhibits.
During this week’s Recreation and Parks Commission meeting, Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller presented a new special event request from Bryan Lilley of National Air, Sea & Space Foundation (NASSF) and Director of Development Steve Webster to dock the Spanish Navy’s tall ship Nao Victoria Galeon in Ocean City for a period of 30 days to add to the resort’s tourist experience. Miller worked with Lilley on recent OC Air Show events in Ocean City.
According to NASSF, the Galeon is a replica of the 16th century ships that Spanish explorers sailed on to discover Florida and much of the new world. The ship will provide an interactive tour, along with exhibits telling its history.
The NASSF recently hosted the Spanish Navy’s Juan Sebastian de Elcano tall ship and the Nao Victoria Galeon in Port Canaveral for the Viva Florida 500 Tall Ship Event back in May.
“They had a lot of success there,” Miller said. “They were there for about 10 days.”
The organizers are proposing to bring the Nao Victoria Galeon to Ocean City from Aug. 20 and have it open to the public Aug. 23-Sept. 22. Two locations have been proposed to dock the ship — the bayside boardwalk between 3rd and 4th streets and Sunset Park using the U.S. Coast Guard Pier. The event organizer’s preference is the bayside boardwalk.
“Honestly the longevity of the event they are proposing is a little extreme as opposed to the original 10 days,” Miller said.
In discussions with City Engineer Terry McGean over the town costs associated with modifying the proposed locations, the bayside boardwalk would cost about $3,000 while the other would cost about $4,000.
“It does overlap Sunfest and they have done that purposely,” Miller explained. “They would like to see us co-market the ship being here with Sunfest.”
Besides having exhibit space outside of the ship, it was suggested the town offer vendor space during Sunfest.
“When those items were brought up, I basically said no to it,” Miller said. “There is no reason for us to pull our crowd away from our venue and have them cannibalized on our effort and our efforts. That wasn’t really a good match.”
Although Miller believes the event is a great idea, he didn’t find it feasible this year especially with the sequestration and the government’s lack of funding provided.
Commission Chair Joe Mitrecic felt the bayside boardwalk between 3rd and 4th streets may be the right location with the current set-up and depth of water but was concerned over the displacement of fishermen who heavily occupy that space during that time of the year.
“This is prime fishing area on the bay. People are out there sun up to sun down during the summer and they have been coming year after year,” he said.
Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out only a portion of the pier boardwalk would be closed down during the duration of the event.
“It capitalizes our assets, and I think it would be a huge attraction for the downtown,” Dare said.
However, he seemed to favor the ship to be located at Sunset Park as it has restrooms, a stage and is positioned across from the Transit Station with a large parking lot.
“It would bring people into the downtown where the businesses are,” Dare said, compared to 3rd and 4th streets area where it is mostly residential.
City Manager David Recor agreed the Nao Victoria would be an added attraction to the downtown for visitors to make a night out of by visiting the ship followed by a walk over to the boardwalk to have dinner and take part in other attractions.
“It may bring people to Ocean City that may not have otherwise come,” he said.
Other concerns came from the Fire Marshal’s Office, which said that the park across the street from the boardwalk proposed to be utilized by vendors is currently used as a Medevac area. If the open field cannot be used, the organizers suggested using 12 paid parking spaces outside of the park across from the boardwalk along Chicago Ave. to set up vendors, which would ultimately be a loss of revenue for the Town of Ocean City.
It was also questioned whether the ship would fit through the draw span of the Route 50 Bridge to reach the bayside boardwalk. Verification has not yet been provided.
“This is a great opportunity but I am not sure the duration is right,” Mitrecic said.
Miller agreed and felt the event was being rushed to fit into this summer.
The commission was in consensus to pass the event onto the full Mayor and Council to receive their input in making the event happen this year.
“If we take it with the glass half empty approach, then it won’t happen. If we do a little bit more homework on it and put our can-do hat on … we can make it happen,” Recor said.