Public opposition to amphibious boat tours on the Schuylkill should persuade the Nutter administration to abandon the idea.
After too much behind-the-scenes discussion, city officials finally held a public meeting at the Free Library about the proposal. The response from neighbors was strong and united: Allowing Ride the Ducks or another tour operator into the area would be a bad move.
The city is accepting proposals for the tours, and an aide to Managing Director Richard Negrin said no decisions have been made. City officials say it's possible that nobody will be awarded a contract to run the land-and-water tours.
That's not how it looks to the public. Since late summer, it's been apparent that City Hall has been predisposed to renewing the tours, with the Schuylkill as the destination. Mayor Nutter even issued a premature news release announcing that Ride the Ducks would resume its tours there in March, before his team realized the city needed to solicit bids.
Negrin's response to the opposition is that tourists enjoy the Ride the Ducks tours. It's a weak argument for invading neighborhoods and a serene park with exhaust-belching, noisy vehicles filled with quacking riders. Tourists are not drawn to Philadelphia to ride these vehicles.
The people pushing to move amphibious tours to the Schuylkill got one thing right - the Schuylkill Banks park is a beautiful spot for a boat tour. From the Waterworks to Bartram's Garden, the river offers breathtaking views of the city and glimpses of a neglected history.
More people should take advantage of the kayak tours and a limited seasonal passenger boat tour. But driving amphibious vehicles across town to reach this location, and then building a proposed access tunnel into the riverbank, would disrupt the character of this setting.
The issue arose after last summer's fatal accident on the Delaware River, in which two tourists were killed when a Ride the Ducks boat was struck by a barge at Penn's Landing. In the aftermath, the tours were discontinued, and the city began looking for an alternative to the Delaware River.
Since then, the process has seemed to be aimed at finding another waterway, any waterway, for Ride the Ducks to cruise. The Schuylkill seems a poor choice, situated as it is across town from the tour operator's embarkation point on Independence Mall. In the peak of the season, about 60 tours per day would be quacking and chugging their way along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, past the Art Museum, and down into the Schuylkill.
Bids for a new tour concession are to be opened on Wednesday. City officials say they are keeping an open mind on whether or not to renew the tours. Let's hope they really mean it.