After renovations, Snow Hill boat on track to be unveiled this spring
(March 26, 2021) The Black Eyed Susan riverboat, recently purchased by the City of Snow Hill, could be fully functional by mid-April, local officials said.
The 111-foot paddlewheel boat is currently stationed at Murtech Marine in Salisbury, where it has undergone various repairs and renovations to prepare it for active use.
“The repairs were mostly cosmetics,” said interim Snow Hill town manager Gary Weber. “Every surface on the exterior has been sanded and painted and some rust areas were cut out and replaced with new steel. So it’s in really nice condition.”
Other improvements include new plexiglass and carpeting on the second level. The town also elected to expand its kitchen area and add a fixed bar to the second level. There were a couple of minor mechanical repairs but overall, mechanically, the riverboat is in good shape, Weber said.
Snow Hill had to overcome a couple of obstacles to secure the riverboat in late 2020.
Funding for the purchase was secured in the form of a $400,000, no-interest loan from Worcester County in October and the riverboat was purchased for $324,900. Previously, however, there had been confusion over who would be providing the funds for the purchase.
The town has applied for a couple of grants to aid funding, including a state-funded heritage grant and a Department of Housing community development grant that had originally been intended for a local railway.
The Black Eyed Susan had been pursued last summer by the city of Leonardtown in St. Mary’s County, and the city had even secured $100,000 from the same heritage grant. But various logistical and infrastructural complications ultimately derailed Leonardtown’s pursuit of the vessel, creating an opportunity for Snow Hill.
“Luckily for us, we were ready to go,” Weber said. “We have a pump-out station right where it’s going to dock, electricity, and (the dock) is very close to our main parking.”
Snow Hill is requesting $60,000 from the heritage grant and that the $100,000 DHC grant be redirected to the riverboat.
The first payment on the county loan won’t come due until next January, which affords Snow Hill and its taxpayers some time for the grants to be sorted out as well as earn revenue and profits from the riverboat.
“We’ll have a full season under our belts before we have to pay that note, and basically it was enough money to do the majority of the repairs, plus the purchase and insuring of the riverboat,” Weber said. “The citizens of Snow Hill have not spent a penny yet and we’re hoping that at the end of this first season, they still won’t have to spend a penny.”
“This is a new operation and something that I think will grow and be a new focal point for the town, a new destination, with a cherry on top of this beautiful sundae we call Snow Hill,” Weber said. “ It’ll be a major presence not just for Snow Hill but for Worcester County and the state of Maryland as a whole.”
Weber added that the Black Eyed Susan is one of only a handful of riverboats in the entire state, which will further distinguish Snow Hill as a tourist attraction.
The riverboat will most likely run between Snow Hill and Pocomoke City. But because of the travel time – about three hours one way – it would not be a daily routine, Weber said. A sizable revenue stream for the riverboat could come from the large hotels and convention groups in Ocean City, which would reserve the entire riverboat. Patrons would be bused into Snow Hill and take the riverboat to Pocomoke City, where they could shop and explore the Delmarva Discovery Museum before shuttling back to Ocean City.
Weber said the riverboat will be a boon to Snow Hill’s economy.
“We’re the county seat of Worcester County,” Weber said. “It’s going to bring a lot of dollars to town. It will help the existing businesses because these people, before getting on board and after getting on board, they’re walking around town. And that keeps the town vibrant.”
Weber said the town aims to let its citizens enjoy their investment on “Snow Hill” days, when Snow Hill residents can ride the riverboat at a discounted price.
There has been talk of a ceremony to unveil the Black Eyed Susan, including a possible Memorial Day celebration. Weber said no plans or dates are set, but a celebration of some sort is likely.