Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Opposition Swells To Big Cruise Ships In Yorktown Harbor

YORK–There’s probably nobody in Yorktown, a quaint hub dependent on visitors, who is against tourism. But opposition is growing to a plan to allow Princess Cruises to make five, day-long stops just offshore next year, disgorging 2,000 to 3,000 passengers onto Water Street each time.

“We are concerned with the scale of this,” said Alyssa Adams, whose family has lived in Yorktown for fifty years.

Adams had a friend make a photo illustration of what the Princess Cruise ship might look like docked in the middle of the York River.

The Coleman Bridge is 90 feet tall at road height, 120 feet at the top of its towers.

The Island Princess is 204 feet high.

“It’s not completely accurate but you get the idea,” Adams said.

Two Yorktown residents, Teri Hodson and Lea Gryk, told the York Board of Supervisors about their objections to the plan at its June 20 meeting.

“We were kind of blindsided,” Hodson said. “This ship is 964 feet long. That’s the length of 2.7 football fields. It’s taller than a 16-story building. I’m all for tourism but this is too much.”

Gryk estimated that the ships, if full, could release a total of more than 14,000 passengers onto Water Street to board buses to go to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg.  The Island Princess, which can carry 2,200 passengers, is scheduled to make three visits. The Emerald Princess, which can carry 3,080, would visit twice.

The 2023 population of Yorktown is 256 people.

The American Cruise Lines ship, the America Constitution, which currently docks at Yorktown, accommodates 170 passengers.

The announcement in February that two Princess Cruises ships would call at Yorktown next year was hailed as a godsend for a tourism industry that has been battered in recent years by the pandemic and has always struggled getting people to an area not served by a convenient air hub.

“We are honored that Princess Cruises sees the value in bringing their customers to Yorktown,” Kristi Olsen-Hayes, Director of York County Economic & Tourism Development, said at the time.

John Padgett, president of Princess Cruises, grew up in Seaford, and worked as a lifeguard at Yorktown Beach as a teenager.

“I’ve always understood the tourism challenges that exist with Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown not having a major international hub from an airport standpoint,” he said. “It complicates getting tourists to the triangle. But now with cruise ships, we can bring them right into Yorktown.”

And then where?  A plan to anchor the ships in the river and use tender boats to shuttle cruise passengers to floating docks near the Watermen’s Museum has been (pardon the pun) floated. There was $7.5 million allocated in a state budget proposal but the budget is not yet finalized.

Once ashore, Padgett said motor coaches would get his passengers to

tourism attractions, although the Colonial Parkway from Yorktown to Williamsburg will be in the midst of a $123 million renovation project next summer.

“I think the idea is to use the town as a gateway to the historic attractions but our town is one street,” Adams said. “How many buses will be lined up to take people somewhere else? Is that 20 buses?”

Adams and a group of residents met on June 26 to figure out what to do next. They would like a meeting with York County Administrator Neil Morgan. They would like an audience with the Board of Supervisors. Most of all, Adams said, they would like transparency.

“I’m not a political person. I don’t know what the (county) is obligated to share with us. But it’s hard to believe that this has gotten this far without any public notification,” she said.

Next meeting of her group: July 10th at the Yorktown Library.

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