A Ribbon Cutting Affair
A red carpet was rolled out to a temporary ramp past red ribboned gold stanchions. With a huge pair of ceremonial scissors, a beaming Paula Russo did the honors along with Moses Jumper Jr. son of Chief Potackee, the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s first female chief, for whom the newest Glass Bottom Boat is named. The Betty Mae Tiger Jumper is the 9th boat in the Park’s fleet and towers over the other boats. The long awaited first ADA compliant, wheelchair-accessible Glass Bottom Boat, equipped with an assistive listening system, and cameras and lights underneath the boat, was officially launched as supporters, sponsors, and well-wishers looked on and applauded. The boat was designed by the Lay, Pitman & Associates Naval Architects, and its construction was completed by the St. John’s Shipbuilding company in Palatka. It’s also the first electric-powered boat in the fleet, and has two motors instead of one which requires a little more steering expertise. On its maiden voyage many wheelchair-bound guests boarded the new vessel and enjoyed peering through the 1.5-inch-thick glass bottom of the boat at all the underwater wildlife Silver River has to offer, along with Captain Bill Cosby’s dynamic ‘spiel’ on its history and springs, and Captain Mark Miller’s expert steersmanship.
The dedication was preceded by a number of State and Park dignitaries speaking to the initiative that’s been six years in the making. Senator Baxley commented on how Silver Springs is the “grandaddy of all springs, so it’s a big deal that people remember and connect to – across all these generations – our history, our heritage, and nature itself.” Hosted by Sally Lieb and her Park staff and Cape Leisure, invited guests enjoyed a 3-tiered replica of a glass bottom boat cake, mimosas, and the company of many supporters and partners: In attendance were representatives of Florida State Parks and its Foundation, The Felburn Foundation, the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund through the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Save the Manatee Club, Cape Leisure Corporation, and the Friends of Silver Springs State Park. With a total cost of just under $500,000, the project needed its multitude of benefactors. And to quote Paula, “No one any longer will be left behind on the dock here at Silver Springs State Park!”
By Marianne Marcoux – It’s hope the Chief Potackee will be in full operation by October.