PARKERSBURG - With Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park passing all the inspections it needed, the island will open today, park officials said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard inspected the "Island Belle," the sternwheeler used to ferry visitors back and forth from the island. Repairs were recently completed on the sternwheeler, including the installation of a new loading ramp.
''We passed the inspection and the stability test,'' said Pam Salisbury, spokesman for the park. ''We are ready to open.''
The park was tentatively set to open Wednesday when the inspection was originally scheduled for Tuesday. However, the Coast Guard was able to reschedule, allowing for the park to open earlier.
''The first boat is scheduled to leave at 10 a.m. (from the new landing at Point Park),'' Salisbury said.
During the past three seasons, while Point Park was being renovated, Blennerhassett partnered with the city of Belpre to allow the sternwheeler to load and unload at Civitan Park, said Brad Reed, a district administrator with the West Virginia State Parks system.
Tickets for boat rides can be purchased at the Blennerhassett Museum at the corner of Second and Juliana streets in downtown Parkersburg.
The schedule for Blennerhassett Island from May 4-June 10 is Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. -4:30 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon until 5:30 p.m.
The Blennerhassett Museum opens one hour prior to the first boat departure.
"The city of Belpre, Ohio, is to be commended for their gesture of goodwill," Reed said. "This year, The Island Belle will resume its departures from Point Park in Parkersburg and the renovated waterfront."
The new waterfront design at Point Park required that modifications be made to the sternwheeler so it could dock at the new area. The Island Belle passenger entrance ramp had to be retrofitted to allow visitors to access the boat.
Passengers loaded from the front on a hoisting ramp, which could not be used with the newly designed Point Park embarkation point.
"The boat has been retrofitted to meet ADA requirements as well as the loading area at Point Park," Reed said. "Modifications and retrofitting of water vessels for commercial transport, which includes the Island Belle, must be inspected by and meet the standards set by the U.S. Coast Guard.
''The Island Belle passed Coast Guard inspections May 3, so we can begin trips to Blennerhassett Island on Friday, May 4, 2012."