The arrival of a 17th-century ship in Alexandria has stirred up a 21st-century fracas, with residents and city officials arguing over logistics and timing. Residents of Founders Park, where the event was originally planned, protested at a Jan. 24 public hearing that the park would be ruined by the event. Then, at a special meeting earlier this week, citizens and officials brainstormed about the best location for the event.
“We heard you in terms of reducing the length of the event,” said Kirk Kincannon, director of the city’s Department of Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities, adding that many neighbors were upset with the 12-day schedule. “So we are proposing a 10-day schedule.”
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, members of a nonprofit group plan to bring a re-creation of the Godspeed to Alexandria. The ship’s stop here will be the first of six stops before the ship arrives at Jamestown. Planners estimate that the event will draw about 2,500 to 3,000 visitors a day with four days of loading and unloading tents, tops and generators. Current plans call for a soundstage, an “anniversary village,” a hospitality tent, a production office and a “New World Simulator” that simulates the experience of sailing in a 17th-century ship.
Those who attended the special public hearing on Monday were split over where to hold the event. Some wanted to stay with the original proposal, which would bring thousands of visitors to Founders Park. Others wanted to spread it out over several of the city’s waterfront parks — including the City Marina and Waterfront Park.
“Founders Park has so many plusses,” said Ellen Pickering. “Let’s give it a chance.”
But others were skeptical, saying that the intensity of use would destroy Founders Park.
“If you have one day of rain, the kids are going to be sloshing around in mud,” said Chuck Hamel, past president of the Founders Park Community Association. “If you have three days of rain, the park will be ruined.”
The city manager’s office plans to take input it heard on Monday night to come up with a new recommendation to present to City Council.