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Old 06-22-09, 06:04 PM
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South Padre Island looking into cruise ship proposal

South Padre Island looking into cruise ship proposal
By CARL PHILLIPS, Island Breeze
June 20, 2009 - 8:00PM

A three or four day cruise down the Gulf Coast of Mexico could become another amenity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley's arsenal of tourist attractions.

And South Padre Island is willing to put up $6,000 to help fund a feasibility study to see if the idea has any chance of floating.

Donna Eymard, with the Port of Brownsville, approached the South Padre Island Board of Aldermen last week asking for contributions to a $25,000 fund to finance a feasibility study for the project.

She pointed out that Galveston already has a cruise ship that makes ports of call in Mexico, but it takes a day and a half to reach their destination from Galveston. A ship home-ported here, she said, would reduce the travel time and still reach same number of desired destinations.

Eymard said the port owns six to eight acres along the ship channel adjacent to Isla Blanca Park, which could be used as homeport for a cruise line.

"Or we could provide infrastructure anywhere up and down the ship channel," she said.

If the idea proves feasible and a cruise ship wanted to come here right away, there are several locations in the Port of Brownsville that could be used temporarily, she said.

"We have all kinds of unused warehouse space," she explained.

She told aldermen three entities had already pledged to contribute to the study-the Port of Brownsville, Valley International Airport in Harlingen, and the City of Port Isabel.

The board agreed to join that group with a vote to contributed $6,000 to the study.

She has approached the Cameron County Commissioners Court, but the topic was only on the agenda for discussion, and will have to appear as an action item before commissioners can vote up or down, she said.

Eymard has tried twice to present her idea to the Brownsville-South Padre Island Airport board, she said, but both scheduled meetings failed to seat a quorum.

Mayor Robert N. "Bob" Pinkerton observed that the town has "been down this road before," and that the price of this study appeared to be a bargain.

Alderman Sam Listi noted that three previous attempts to operate a cruise ship here have already failed, but Eymard responded that those were gambling ships that do not provide a good comparison.

"This project, if it proves realistic, will bring money into the area," she said. "People will stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants. It's the homeport of a cruise ship that benefits from the tourist dollars."

Eymard said that the Florida-based company that will do the study plans to accomplish it in three phases.

"If, after the first phase, they see that it's hopeless they'll stop right there," she said. "We would then owe them only an hourly rate for the work they did to that point."
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