JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A riverfront attraction for Downtown Jacksonville took a big step forward in becoming a reality on Tuesday.
The Jacksonville Naval Museum officially took ownership of the USS Orleck.
The destroyer could be in the St. Johns River by late February.
“It’s been a 12-year journey for a lot of us,” said Dan Bean, a local attorney who’s leading the effort to bring the USS Orleck here.
For 12 years, the Jacksonville Naval Museum has had a pier downtown, with no ship. On Tuesday, the USS Orleck got final clearance from dry dock in Texas. After some minor repairs and a paint job, the museum will tow the Orleck to Jacksonville and dock it on the pier in front of Berkman Plaza II.
“Now, when you come across that Main Street Bridge and you see this warship, you’re gonna know it’s a Navy town,” Bean said.
The destroyer, which earned dozens of honors in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, will offer a touchable history lesson.
“This is a Navy town. I think people don’t always understand or relate to the history. And if you really want to get people interested, you need to have some hands-on stuff,” said retired sailor Stephen Jorgensen.
Jorgensen pointed out that since 9/11, security is tight at military bases, making attractions like the Orleck on the St. Johns in Downtown Jacksonville an even more important teaching tool.
“It’s one thing to see something on your phone or on a TV. But when you see how big it is and you get on it, you know, I think it helps us understand who we are as a country,” Jorgensen said.
The Naval Museum got a $1 million grant from the state and raised money to move the Orleck to Jacksonville. The organization is always taking donations to help get the project settled downtown. To learn more about how you can donate, click here.
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