Navy changes course on plan for USS Adams in Jacksonville

Navy changes course on plan for USS Adams in Jacksonville
USS Charles F. Adams (Courtesy

It has been more than 10 years since the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association (JHNSA) conceived the idea of bringing a retired Navy warship to Jacksonville to be used as a floating museum, but after a decade of spending money and exerting effort, the JHNSA announced in December that the vessel will not be berthed in the Bold City.  

For reasons that were not made entirely clear to JHNSA, the Navy determined that it would not donate the USS Charles F. Adams to Jacksonville – instead, it will be scrapped. The JHNSA was interested in that particular ship because of its deep roots here. The USS Charles F. Adams was based out of Mayport from 1969 until it was decommissioned in 1990 and subsequently transferred to Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia. 

“It’s been about a 10-year effort for me, and about 12 years for our plank owners. We have submitted two or three different applications through the years. We submitted the first one in 2010 or 2011 and the Navy said it was the best application they had ever received,” said Daniel Bean, JHNSA president. “Things went swimmingly until 2015, when the Navy offered for us to take possession of the ship. We didn’t have enough financing or a spot with the City as far as a pier, so we didn’t accept it at the time – probably one of the biggest mistakes I made.”

About six months later, the JHNSA got $1 million from the State, and the City offered them a slip. They then reached out to the Inactive Ship Maintenance Department of the Navy, but did not receive responses to their emails or phone calls. When JHNSA finally did receive a response from the Navy, they were caught up in an eddy of redundancy and previously unmentioned requirements that resulted in them spending countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to make it happen.  

“It was ridiculous, the hoops they made us jump through. We had to resend 90 percent of our applications. They wouldn’t accept Crowley’s tow bid of $350,000 – they said it was too low. They told us we had to have a $10 million insurance policy now, which wasn’t in the instructions or application. They kept moving the goalpost,” said Bean. “We think the reason is, there have been too many ships on display that have come back to the Navy and asked for millions of dollars for help. We accept that, but we think they made the decision in 2015 and didn’t tell us.”

Congressman John Rutherford became personally involved in the effort to bring the USS Charles F. Adams to Jacksonville. He worked with Navy officials to get approval to have the ship transferred here, but even that did not yield the desired result.

“We were disappointed by the Navy’s final decision, especially considering the effort that so many put forth over the course of this project. Though JHNSA found their communication with the Navy to be lacking at times, several conference calls and correspondence transpired regarding this project, particularly after the congressional delegation became involved. It is important to note that JHNSA’s application was open for nearly a decade.”

When the U.S. Navy was asked why it decided against releasing the ship, a response came from Colleen O’Rourke, Naval Sea Systems Command, office of corporation communication. “After the ex-Charles F. Adams was placed back on donation hold, the Navy continued to work with Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association (JHNSA) to assist them with outstanding requirements in their donation application. Although there were improvements, the Navy was unable to approve the donation application due to deficiencies that remained from JHNSA’s updated proposal,” she said, adding “The ship will be disposed of via dismantlement.” 

Although the ship has sailed regarding USS Charles F. Adams, the dream to bring a warship museum to Jacksonville is still afloat, according to Bean. A representative from a warship that is on display elsewhere in the country contacted the JHNSA because they are having trouble housing their ship and would like the JHNSA to have it. JHNSA representatives have already made two trips to inspect the ship and will soon be sending divers to inspect the hull. 

At the ship’s current location, the pier is going away because the surrounding property is being developed. The location is not being disclosed at this time, per the potential donor’s request. The hope is that the ship will be towed to Jacksonville before hurricane season begins, if the hull is strong enough and a transfer is feasible. The ship would be docked at the shipyard close to the Berkman Plaza pier. It’s a good location because the pier is strong and the water is an optimal depth. 

District 14 Councilman Jim Love, a Navy pilot and retired Naval Reserve Captain, has a personal interest in bringing a wartime ship museum to Jacksonville, and he thinks it would be good for the city as well. 

“I think that Jacksonville deserves a ship and I will be working with Dan Bean to try to help make that happen. We would like the USS Adams, but another ship would work. Reunions can be held and we can show our appreciation for the Navy, which is a big part of Jacksonville,” said Love. “It would be a tourist draw for downtown to have the ship there. My goal is to be able to see it from I-95. People could see it when they drive over the bridge, and they would want to go see it.”    

According to Bean, the JHSNA business plan calls for the ship to be rotated every 10 years, so once they get the first ship here, they would apply for a second ship. There would never be more than one ship docked at a time. 

“Jacksonville is a Navy town, and Florida is the third largest Navy state in the country,” Bean said. “We have worked with developers of the Shipyards, they are excited about it – we are all excited about it.”

By Kandace Lankford
Resident Community News

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