Niagara Gazette

October 20, 2013

Maid of the Mist extending season — to offer free rides

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

Maid of the Mist officials announced Sunday that the boat tour company is extending its season by two days this fall— and they're not charging passengers a dime.

Free rides will be offered to all Maid of the Mist passengers on Friday and Saturday, the two additional days the boats will be operating for.

“This is an opportunity for us to thank everyone for the strong, local, grassroots effort that encouraged, supported and motivated us to keep the Maids running for years to come,” said James V. Glynn, chairman and CEO of the Maid of the Mist Corp. “We are also grateful for the tremendous assistance from Governor Cuomo, New York State Parks, New York Power Authority, elected officials and other entities, that has been vital to the construction of our new drydock and maintenance facility, which will soon be completed.”

The tours were originally scheduled to end for the season on Thursday.

Friday's boat cruises will be held out of Niagara Falls State Park on the New York site of the border from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Work is progressing on the drydock on the American side of the gorge. A large marine crane was delivered to the site last month. The machine to be ready to pull boats out of the water by the beginning of November.

Kevin Keenan, a spokesman for Maid of the Mist, said the company was happy to see the crane delivered, as it is a symbol of the progress that construction crews are making on the dry docks.

Maid of the Mist lost its right to operate the attraction on the Canadian side of the gorge — where the winter storage facility exists — to California cruise boat company Hornblower Cruises & Events.

The Niagara Parks Commission, the provincial agency that runs the parks system in Ontario, opened the contract to run the attraction to bidding after receiving complaints from companies during negotiations to renew a contract with the Maid of the Mist in 2009.

Hornblower will begin operating the attraction in Ontario next spring and will gain rights to the facilities at the beginning of 2014.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Maid of the Mist would invest $32 million into a new docking facility on the former Schoellkopf Power Station site, which is owned by the New York Power Authority and overseen by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, so that the company could continue operating the attraction under its 40-year agreement with the state signed in 2002.

The Maid of the Mist and state and federal agencies are also currently fighting two legal battles over the use of the site.

Hornblower has sued in an effort to reopen the Maid’s contract with state parks to a bidding process arguing, amongst other reasons, that the new terms to the deal constitute a new contract and should be subject to the state’s competitive bidding laws.

That suit was struck down in State Supreme Court last month, but the company is appealing the ruling.

The Niagara Preservation Coalition, a preservation group formed after plans were announced to build on the historic site where power station buildings tumbled into the gorge in 1956, had sued the company and various state agencies in an effort to stop what they view as the destruction of the historic integrity of the site. The group has exhausted its legal options at the state level, but has continued its fight, suing federal agencies that oversee the use of the land on the grounds that, like the state agencies, they say pushed through review processes in order to appease Cuomo and other state officials.