Tall ships drew thousands to Jamestown
In the wake of the July 1 Parade of Tall Ships, Jamestown is riding waves of raves for the island's handling of the flood of visitors for the event. Local officials credited planning that was coordinated by the state for the procession of more than 20 ships between Conanicut and Aquidneck Islands.
The last time the Tall Ships showcased their sails, in 2004, visitors who came to watch the parade from Jamestown's choice viewing sites were vexed by insufficient handling of the gridlock the viewers' vehicles created.
This summer's grand marshaling of Narragansett Bay, especially the sailing finale July 1, has brought accolades to both islands that shared the tourist invasion for the event. Officials prepared for 250,000 visitors, but have no exact counts to report.
In Jamestown, the visitors scattered to such sites as Taylor Point, East Ferry, and Fort Wetherill and Beavertail State Parks. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser reported, "We're getting good response to the Tall Ships preparation from visitors and townspeople." He cited a letter from a Connecticut family. "We were extremely impressed with Jamestown's planning and organization for this grand event. We drove right into town without any delays, found convenient parking and were able to exit the downtown waterfront area smoothly. Your local police department and the National Guard did a terrific job," Laura Massad wrote about her family's visit to Jamestown.
Keiser reported Monday that costs for the town's role in hosting the visitors totaled $27,241. The state had advanced the town $7,000 toward police overtime. The town, through its legislators, already had applied for an added $10,000, which is pending. Keiser said he will ask legislators to support nearly $11,000 more in reimbursements. He expects the $21,000 would be forthcoming next fall or winter.
The costs incurred were: $19,942, for police overtime; $4,050, for 30 portable toilets and supplies; $2,457 for two shuttle buses July 1 and one bus June 30; and $790 for work done by employees of the town public works and recreation departments. His report did not include amounts for state police and for 26 Na- tional Guard personnel assigned to Jamestown.
Keiser said the bus shuttles from the free parking areas were not used by many people and resulted in only $350 in bus fares at $5 per adult and $2 per child. He said visitors chose instead to walk to viewing areas. He said the shuttle plan was tried as an experiment and brought in unexpectedly low income. Newport was host city for the ship festival that arranged for paid parking on Aquidneck Island outside the city limits and provided shuttles free; officials said the system worked well there, although exact figures were not available.
One worker commented that the town planning seemed to have resulted in being "overprepared." The town administrator said, "Based on the turnout, we were more than adequately prepared, when you look at the previous time, but from the viewpoint of safety and not only convenience, it seems we did well."
Volunteer fire and rescue personnel and equipment were also stationed at various locations on the island, to be ready to help with problems that might have occurred or to respond in case of emergency without having to deal with traffic problems in the busy village area of the departments' headquarters.
Keiser credited Police Chief Thomas Tighe for his leadership of the town's coordination with state authorities and with National Guard members assigned to help with Jamestown logistics for the swarms of sightseers.
Tighe himself rated it all "kind of smooth," withholding perfect marks because there was some backup a few hours before the noontime Tall Ships parade. He said the backup was on Route 138 in the area of the Helm Street exit just east of the Jamestown Bridge to North Main Road, as well as at the main Jamestown exit for East Shore Road just west of the Newport Bridge toll plaza. "When we first had the Tall Ships (1976), we still had the single lane old Jamestown Bridge. You can imagine what the traffic was like then," the veteran chief remarked.
He explained this event's backup at Helm represented vehicles waiting to enter town to get to parking areas designated for the day at the Melrose and Lawn Avenues Schools and Fort Getty. Visitors began leaving before the full parade loop of about two hours was completed, Tighe reported, and that led to smoother departures for those who stayed longer. The parade was about a half hour late in starting because of maneuvering logistics by the large ships, festival officials had explained.
Overall, Tighe summarized, "There were no problems. There were no arrests. There were no accidents. It was a family event, a really nice family event."