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City Of Philadelphia Scuttles Duck Boat Tours

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(File photo: a duck boat operates in center city prior to last summer's fatal accident on the Delaware.)

(File photo: a duck boat operates in center city prior to last summer’s fatal accident on the Delaware.)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Mayor Michael Nutter says the idea of putting duck boats on the Schuylkill River simply does not float. The Nutter administration announced Tuesday that it is rejecting a plan to allow the amphibious tour vehicles on the Schuylkill.

“The ability to access the Schuylkill, at least at the location that was proposed, from my perspective certainly, just operationally — it really just did not work,” Mayor Nutter told KYW Newsradio Tuesday morning.

After a fatal accident last summer involving a duck boat on the Delaware River (see related story), the city and the tour operator explored the possibility of moving the water portion of the tours to the Schuylkill River, where the passenger boats would not face the danger of collisions with barges and other commercial traffic.

Additional related Duck Boats stories

Residents in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood, and Fairmount Park advocates, had criticized the idea, saying allowing duck boats on the Schuylkill would adversely impact recreational uses on and near the river.

The city opened the discussion to potential competitors, but only the “Ride The Ducks” company responded. In the end, city officials decided that a duck tour operation was not a good fit for the city.

City managing director Richard Negrin said in a statement: “We appreciate Ride the Ducks efforts to address community concerns, but when all is said and done the proposal’s potential traffic impact, the number of vessels that could be on the river at one time, and the inability for the tours to operate during special events were issues with which the city was uncomfortable.”

Jericka Duncan reports…

After learning of the city’s decision, Chris Herschend, president of Ride The Ducks, issued a statement saying he was disappointed but would work to resume operations on the Delaware River.

“At a time when jobs and tourism revenue play such an important role in Philadelphia, we are doing our best to work with local officials, residents, and businesses to provide a tour experience that can be enjoyed by all…. As previously announced, the United States Coast Guard has given RTD approval to resume operations on the Delaware. We will continue to work with officials to open for the season this spring,” Herschend said in a written statement.

“We anticipate resuming operations here in Philadelphia. We’re not quite sure when, but it looks like as of today, we’ll be focusing on the Delaware River, which we’re very comfortable operating in safely,” he told KYW Newsradio.

Herschend says the Coast Guard already has approved a plan by the Duck Boats operator to go back out onto the river. He says while there are no legal obstacles to the tours resuming, Herschend wants to work with the city and others to address any lingering concerns in the wake of last summer’s accident.

Two Hungarian students died last July after a duck boat was run down by a barge being pushed by a tug on the Delaware. The NTSB investigation of that incident is ongoing.

Reported by Mike Dunn and Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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