WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A staple of downtown Wilmington for three decades will soon be just a memory. The Coast Guard Cutter Diligence will be leaving us next year with no plans of returning.
“We asked them, we said, if you can’t keep it in downtown Wilmington for security reasons and the assets and hard structures they had to build around it, is there another place along our waterfront that we could possible look at?” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said.
That request from Mayor Saffo to the Coast Guard regarding the cutter Diligence would not be fulfilled. The Coast Guard decided that the Diligence, which has spent nearly 30 years in Wilmington, would be moved to its new home at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida on or around September 30, 2020.
“It’s a sad day to see that ship leave and those folks who are our neighbors and citizens that reside in our community,” Saffo said.
President of Wilmington Downtown Incorporated Ed Wolverton says losing the Diligence, it’s 72 crew members and their families, is a bad blow to downtown, both socially and economically.
“We have some businesses that have relationships with the Diligence itself as far as activities and events,” Wolverton said.
One of those businesses is Hell’s Kitchen. Owner Eric Laut says back in 2015 they held a cooking contest with the Diligence to see who had the better cooks.
“It’s been a great relationship with them,” Laut said. “They come in here every once in a while, and we’re just glad to have them.”
Wolverton says losing the Diligence also means losing a tourist attraction.
“It’s one of the few working docks that are available for the public to go by and see on a daily basis,” Wolverton said. “Often times, it may be on a military installation, or maybe in a place that people can’t get to.”
Saffo says that easy access may be part of the reason for the Diligence leaving. He says although it’s sad to see it go, he hopes something positive will come out of it.
“I’m sure that if we were to receive that piece of property from the United States Coast Guard or from the federal government, that we would probably make it Coast Guard Park,” Saffo said.
A letter the Coast Guard sent to Rep. David Rouzer says the move will support their homeporting priorities by clustering cutters of the same class.