Niagara Gazette

March 20, 2010

GLYNN: Smooth sailing ahead for Jet Boat Tours?

By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS — While the popular Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours have been through rough waters during the past two years, the outlook for spring is much better.

The improved forecast, however, comes at hefty price, says John Kinney, whose tour company operates out of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Water Street Landing, Lewiston.

Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled the tour company’s licensing agreement to use the Niagara-on-the-Lake town dock is legal.

That reversed the May 2009 decision when Justice Joseph Quinn ruled — in agreement with the Niagara River Coalition — the town had illegally leased the dock to the tour company for the past 16 years.

In releasing its ruling, the three Court of Appeal judges noted the Jet Boat Tours operation is compatible with surrounding uses.

The judges stated: “The area has a long history of marine and commercial use. That is the heritage of the Niagara River.”

Lord Mayor Gary Burroughs observed the controversy over the dock has caused some friction in the community for several years. Although, he said, town officials are generally satisfied with the ruling, it will be important to consult with the town attorney to get a full interpretation of the decision.

Kinney told the media last week that legal fees between the tour company and the town have exceeded $500,000 just to deal with the issues. At present, he plans to begin the 2010 season in late April.

The jet boats carry passengers — protected in full-length splash suits and boots — along the lower river, beneath the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, past the sprawling power plants and to the edge of the Whirlpool, the deepest part of the river.

On a related note, Kinney says the jet boats have frequently been filled during the prime season with visitors from Korea and India, among other foreign markets.

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LURING VISITORS: Through the efforts of Bill Hilts Jr., outdoor sports specialist for the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., and Elizabeth Davis, sales director of NTCC, the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers selected the Niagara area for its 2012 Spring Mega Media event.

The Barton Hill Hotel and Spa, Lewiston, will host the four-day conference expected to draw about 30 outdoor writers from leading sports publications in the states bordering the five Great Lakes, the nation’s largest source of fresh water.

The annual convention affords an excellent opportunity for any travel destination to market its major assets. In this case, it’s the splendid fishing areas along the river and on Lake Ontario.

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OFF THE PRESS: “Been There Done That” by Steve Ludzik is the autobiography of the ex-National Hockey League player who started his career with the Niagara Falls Flyers in the Junior A, Ontario Hockey League.

  Ludzik was with the Chicago Black Hawks until 1992 before moving into the coaching ranks. For a short time, he coached the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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A SIDETRIP: Generally pleasant weather conditions over the weekend brought more visitors to the Niagara Falls State Park, including some teams and many basketball fans attending the regional NCAA tourney games at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext.  2246.