Photo: Staff Photo By Eric S. Swist
One of the most iconic elements of The Woodlands, the Waterway Cruiser fleet, will soon be taken to the trash heap.
The board of Visit The Woodlands Texas, formerly known as The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau, approved on Wednesday a contract to permanently dispose of the six iconic Waterway Cruisers. The boats, which were used for years to ferry tourists and residents up and down The Woodlands Waterway, have been out of action since February.
In a unanimous decision, board members of the tourism group in The Woodlands approved a bid from MGS III, a Palm Beach, Florida-based maritime manufacturing company, to dispose of the six watercraft.
The firm, tourism board Chairman Bruce Rieser said, aims to have the boats removed within the next four to six weeks.
“They’ve reached the end of their useful life,” Rieser said of the cruisers. “The only appropriate step from here on out is their disposal.”
The cost of the contract, Visit The Woodlands Texas President Nick Wolda said at the meeting, is not to exceed $60,000. The cost to completely renovate and put the six damaged cruisers into operation would have exceeded half a million dollars, a cost that would have been borne by Visit The Woodlands, Wolda noted.
In March, township officials put out two requests for proposals – one for complete removal of the boats and one for potential investment to get them up and running again. Officials initially hoped to find an investor to refurbish and bring the boats up to code. Wolda said no investors stepped forward with an offer of fixing them.
The boats were heavily damaged in Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, leaving all six cruisers inoperable. The boats had unique electric motors that made them more susceptible to water damage from the days of heavy rains and flooding Harvey caused. In December, one of the cruisers was repaired enough to become operable again, however by February the lone boat was out of action due to maintenance difficulties.
Rieser said that despite the popularity of the boats — almost half a million people rode the cruisers in their lifespan and the boats were a mainstay of township marketing — their continued operation was not a viable option. In July, the township Board of Directors approved the purchase of 10 swan boats, pedal-powered craft that could be rented by the public and used on The Woodlands Waterway, as a partial replacement for the cruisers.
“Are we willing to commit public funding to fund them?” Rieser asked about refurbishing the inoperable boats. “I’m not about to do that without an extensive amount of study and consultation with the township board.”
The cruisers will be missed in the Woodlands, Rieser said, but the time for a new option to replace them has come.
“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Rieser said.
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