Replica of Columbus' Santa Maria needs to be relocated

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Columbus has discovered it needs to move a replica of the Santa Maria from its downtown river mooring while a multimillion riverfront project continues.

The replica of explorer Christopher Columbus' flagship is getting in the way of a $35.5 million project narrowing the Scioto River and adding dozens of acres of green space, said Alan McKnight, city Recreation and Parks director.

City Council on Monday approved spending $500,000 to move the ship to make it easier to work on the park where the ship is situated, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Some renovations will also be made while the ship is in dry dock, McKnight said. The bottom of the ship is fiberglass and does not need to be repaired, but the wooden deck and other parts have decayed over the years.

The city will hire the Albany, New York, builders of the ship to help with renovations.

About 17,000 visitors board the ship each year, said Linda Ketcham, executive director of the nonprofit group Santa Maria, Inc.

The ship, which arrived in 1991, will likely return to the river in 2016, but may be placed someplace new, possibly closer to the Center of Science And Industry across from its current location, McKnight said. There are no plans to remove it permanently.

The riverfront project is dramatically reshaping the river downtown. The removal of a low head dam has freed up large amounts of land being redeveloped as park space.

For now, the area resembles a huge muddy construction site.