BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Naval Park at Canalside is gearing up for a busy tourism season just a year after the USS The Sullivans partially sank in the Buffalo River.
This year it is full steam ahead to return the USS The Sullivans to her former glory.
“Just to have people come back aboard, that’s what really brings life to the ship. That’s what’s so critically important,” Bill Abbott, retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer and director of operations at the Buffalo Naval Park, said.
April 14, 2022 was a dark day in the history of the the 80-year-old World War II ship. After a major hull breach, the ship began listing and taking on water. The ship has been in Buffalo’s harbor since 1977. 65 percent of the artifacts were saved, but some didn’t make it.
“It was tough to lose some of the artifacts that we did. The ship herself is the largest artifact in terms of USS The Sullivans, so we are very happy that she has been preserved herself,” Shane Stephenson, director of museum collections at the Buffalo Naval Park, added.
A year later, the ship is righted and the hull repaired, but there is still more work to do. Visitors are still not allowed inside the ship because of the extensive damage.
“Now it’s just a matter of working on the insides of the ship and working on a dry docking plan,” Stephenson continued.
The Sullivans will be dry docked for several months to fully replace the hull. The new steel should last about 50 years and will require little to no maintenance, but the dry docking process will be complicated.
“The plan as it stands right now would be to go at the end of our visitor season and go for the winter months and return in time for the opening of the next season,” Abbott said. “Once its dredged, the Little Rock is shifted back and the Croaker is shifted forward, then tug boats would come in and pull The Sullivans out.”
The Naval Park says it is prepared for this massive project because the ships are an integral part of this community.
“The roots of these ships grows deep in the community and the outpouring was really overwhelming. It was pretty amazing,” Abbott concluded.
The entire park is open for the season. It is open seven days per week and will be ready for visitors from near and far. It closes for the season in November.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.