South Jersey Speaks Out: Great possibilities for 'Big J'
Take a look at this page, and you quickly will realize that there is no shortage of ideas on how best to enjoy the USS New Jersey.
From exciting programs and features on board to hosting weddings and even Super Bowl parties, there are any number of thoughts about the "Big J."
Home Port Alliance plans are spectacular, and include the opportunity for some, especially youth groups, to spend a night on the ship. The "Interpretive Walkway" will be a series of linked plazas that depict the history of the battleship. Each plaza will be rich in history.
The ship will be a big part of the emerging Camden Waterfront. Already in place are the Camden Children's Garden and the E-Centre. A baseball stadium is planned, as is a tram to Penn's Landing.
And that's just the beginning. As these exciting projects begin to attract more and more tourists to the area, support facilities -- restaurants, hotels, shops, etc. -- likely will spring up.
South Jersey has been entrusted with making the USS New Jersey a successful educational tool that also attracts tourists from all over.
Judging from the response to this week's South Jersey Speaks Out question, the same high level of enthusiasm that was so instrumental in bringing the ship home remains for the task of turning it into a success once berthed on this side of the Delaware River.
So long as that enthusiasm remains strong, it's hard to see how the "Big J" can be anything but a success."
Now that the USS New Jersey is coming home to Camden, let's hope that no one drops the ball. Without careful planning, we could end up with an embarrassment to South Jersey.
We need to create a tourist-friendly area with shops and restaurants. Parking concerns also need to be addressed.
The ship will draw many visitors initially, but before we pat ourselves on the back, we need to create an environment that will attract people year after year. Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a wonderful example of what could be in Camden.
This is an exciting opportunity to revitalize the city. It is so easy to bash Camden for all of its problems, but instead, why don't we rally behind the city and focus on making the USS New Jersey another step toward the betterment of South Jersey? This is a project we all can be proud of.
Perfect reunion site
With regard to the USS New Jersey, think about the annual reunion of the men who served aboard the "Big J" since she was commissioned. We will meet in Daytona Beach, Fla., in September.
At that meeting, we will vote where the reunion will be in 2001. Wouldn't it be great to have our reunion in New Jersey in time for the grand opening rather than in time for the Republican National Convention?
Give the ship her own time and well-deserved museum, where everyone, from those who built her to those who served on her, can all be really proud to go back and visit.
Do you want 500 or more people who served on her to be present for the grand opening, or do you want the Republicans for this celebration? Let's get it right!
I served on the "Big J" for 41 months and 27 days, 1953-56.
Cape Coral, Fla.
Now that the Navy has made the correct decision to berth the "Big J" in Camden, one can envision this majestic ship gracing the Camden Waterfront facing Penn's Landing. Now, imagine folks coming into Philly for a visit to Penn's Landing. They see the USS New Jersey Memorial Waterfront Park and take the river tramway over to the Camden Waterfront Complex.
After paying their admission, they go through the USS New Jersey Museum, featuring static displays of various components of the ship from its construction through its restoration.
Then they board the ship to tour every part, accompanied by a self-guided tour brochure and maybe an audio tour player. They get face-to-face with the mighty guns, crew quarters and messes, the incredible gun barbettes, etc.
I see civic veterans and maybe even private organizations reserving the ship to hold banquets and other functions. Scouting and other community youth organizations can get the thrill of a lifetime by camping out on the ship overnight, similar to what Charleston, S.C., does with the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point.
I see the battleship as the centerpiece for a big Fourth of July, daylong festival, culminating with a Pops-style concert at the E-Centre with coordinated fireworks backlighting the mighty battleship for the day's finale.
Boston's or Washington's celebration won't have anything on Camden's!
Come to think of it, the possibilities featuring the "Big J" in South Jersey are almost limitless. OK, everybody, it's your turn. Start putting the grand old lady to work!