Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Spin Offered on St. Marys Tours National Park Service Donates Tram to City

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Spin Offered on St. Marys Tours National Park Service Donates Tram to City

Article excerpt

Byline: Gordon Jackson, Times-Union staff writer

ST. MARYS -- The National Park Service has found a new use for an electric tram intended to transport tour groups on Cumberland Island.

It's being offered to St. Marys free-of-charge as a way to provide motorized tours to several historical sites. City officials are expected to discuss the matter at their May 13 meeting.

The 18-passenger tram was only used by the Park Service about five hours during the past two years because it didn't have a wheelbase high enough to clear ruts and roots on the barrier island's dirt roads, said Art Frederick, superintendent at the national seashore.

Rather than keep the $57,000 tram in storage on the island, Frederick came up with a solution he thinks will help tourists learn more about Cumberland Island and St. Marys, which is the main departure point to the national seashore. The tram will remain Park Service property, Frederick said, but the city will be allowed to use the vehicle whenever it wants. The city also must provide the driver and pay any liability insurance, Frederick said.

Frederick said the vehicle, which includes an electric car and two separate trailers for passengers, would be ideal to transport group tours in the city's historic waterfront district.

"I've seen some of the walking tours in St. Marys where some of the people struggle to keep up," Frederick said. "This would be perfect for them."

One of the cars has a ramp and enough room inside to hold two wheelchairs, Frederick said. Additional cars also can be added to the tram engine, which is similar to ones used at airports to tow jet airliners.

Besides helping people who don't have the stamina or health to tour the city, the donation will also benefit the National Park Service, Frederick said. The only stipulation for the city is the tram must stop at the Park Service's visitor center and the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum, both in downtown St. …

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