Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 17, 2009

MAID OF THE MIST: Sailing through controversy

T his year, like so many other years before it, Maid of the Mist Corp. helped mark the unofficial start of spring in Western New York and Southern Ontario by lowering its fleet of boats into the lower Niagara River on Friday.

The company has been preparing for tourism seasons much the same way since launching its first steamboat back in 1846.

And while some argue that’s too long for any one company to have a virtual lock on one of the region’s premiere tourist attractions, representatives say the Maid of the Mist’s lengthy record of success and safety has earned it the right to continue to serve as the one and only operator of boat tours beneath mighty Niagara Falls.

“History means something to us,” said Tim Ruddy, vice president of marketing for the Maid of the Mist Corp. “It may not mean anything to some people, but it means something to us.”

The run-up to the 2009 season has been one of the more controversial periods in the company’s history. A pair of vendors have asserted that they, too, should have a chance to bid on lease agreements related to the tour boat operation. Those agreements have come under fire from critics who question their terms and the way they were negotiated by parks officials in both the U.S. and Canada.

Through it all, Ruddy says his company has continued to focus on the task at hand — keeping passengers safe while providing them with a quality experience.

“For us, it’s very much business as usual,” Ruddy said. “We’re extremely confident that we’ll be operating for another 100 years.”

Interested operators at the dock

Business as usual is exactly what Atlanta businessman William Windsor says is wrong with the Maid of the Mist’s operation. Windsor and his son, who owns a tour-ticket company known as Alcatraz Media, have taken legal action in an effort to open for bid a process that has historically involved just one applicant — Maid of the Mist owner James Glynn.

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