Hope floats. The Black Eyed Susan doesn’t. At least not as a passenger vessel.
That’s how it’s been since the Town of Snow Hill bought the 111-foot paddlewheeler in 2021 for roughly $350,000 with the help of a no-interest loan from county government.
Since that time, it’s been one thing after another for the riverboat, with the most recent difficulty being its failure to pass muster with Coast Guard as a commercial cruiser.
Given all the boat’s problems, it appears that Havre de Grace, its last home port, shipped its future troubles downstream before the Black Eyed Susan became the proverbial hole in the water into which one throws money.
But now, as Snow Hill residents and government ponder whether to sell or to keep steaming onward despite the expensive repairs the sternwheeler requires, their options are limited. Putting the Black Eyed Susan up for sale assumes that a market exists for it, especially at a price that would put some kind of dent in the town’s debt.
At the same time, sticking to the course originally charted for it is going to require another major investment to bring the boat up to Coast Guard standards.
What all this really comes down to is whether paddlewheel boat rides up and down the Pocomoke River actually will post a net over expenses for an extended period.
Some hope exists for the project’s advocates: the fact is many economic drivers end up costing far more than anyone expected and in surprising ways. Yet, they still manage to work.
The Town of Berlin’s experience with revitalization proved that. Although the addition of new businesses and the reestablishment of a robust economy there seemed to arrive without a downside, the cost of that growth came due when the town finally was forced to address water and sewer rates it had been keeping artificially low to maintain community harmony while it rebuilt the downtown.
But hey, it worked out for Berlin, and the hope exists that it could work out for Snow Hill too.