My first encounter with the battleship Texas BB 35 was in 1948 as a teenager, when our family went aboard the ship during one of our many picnic outings at the San Jacinto Monument grounds. I remember my awe at seeing the mighty ship, and, as I recall, a sudden violent spring thunderstorm came up and for a time we were forced to shelter aboard. I never felt safer. In the years since, my own family and I have visited the ship many times. As a high school NJROTC Naval Science Instructor in the 1990s, I even had the unique opportunity to take a select group of cadets aboard for an overnight stay. After having spent more than seven years of my military career at sea aboard a heavy cruiser and numerous amphibious landing ships, I can’t help but be an avid proponent of saving the Texas. I am excited that there is a growing number of individuals who also share my concern.
My first choice for permanent berthing after repairs, is to return this historical fighting ship to its present site. If, for some reason that this can’t be done, I have given a lot of thought to where it might be berthed, keeping in mind that it needs to be highly visible and easily accessible to the touring public in order to increase visitation.
In my opinion, anywhere other than the state of Texas is out of the question. Corpus Christi and Pelican Island in Galveston already host museum ships and that would detract from the Texas. Galveston already has the Elissa, and a downtown pier location might prove difficult to protect the ship from a hurricane tidal surge. The new cruise ship terminal at Bayport could work, but I think it may be too far off the beaten path.
In my mind the best choice would be the Bayland Park and marina in the ship channel area of Baytown. This site has good mooring potential, and the ship would be in direct view of the thousands of persons crossing the Fred Hartman Bridge each day – even more once the Grand Parkway is completed. The area is large enough for ample parking, is easy to get to, and has plenty of room for infrastructure development such as additional restaurants, a hotel, a museum, picnic areas, and tourist facilities. The ship channel and bridge views from the deck of the ship would be out of this world. There is a small city park, a public boat launching ramp, a thriving marina, and a popular restaurant already in place to help get things started. There are also two very nice RV campgrounds within two miles of the park. Another could be added right in the park area to facilitate the growing number of folks who utilize RVs for vacationing. A tourist staying at an on-site hotel or RV campsite in the park, would have at their immediate disposal the battleship, the San Jacinto Battlegrounds, the Kemah Boardwalk, and the Houston Space Center in Webster. One could easily spend a week taking in these attractions.
My wife and I are 25-year residents of Baytown, and we have always been involved in local civic affairs, and want to give our full support in bringing this historical ship to a place where it can be seen and appreciated by all Texans, and tourists from all over the country and the world.
Kenneth L. Ammons and Margaret A. Ammons