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Alan Bernstein: Public boat dock/marina at Cincinnati Public Landing would not serve larger riverboats

BB Riverboats owns and operates three U.S. licensed and certified vessels: The Belle of Cincinnati, 1,000 passengers; the River Queen, 500 passengers; and the Mark Twain, 150 passengers.

For more than 40 years, my family has operated cruises, events centers and restaurants on the Ohio River. We have worked tirelessly to bring visitors, events and attention to the communities and businesses that are along the river.

So I felt it necessary to make clear that BB Riverboats does not oppose plans by the Cincinnati Park Board to install a public boat dock/marina on the Cincinnati Public Landing. We do, however, agree with many others that Cincinnati’s Public Landing is not the best site for the boat dock/marina.

A better, more functioning site is just to the west of the proposed location, between the end of Main Street and the Roebling Suspension Bridge. (FOR REFERENCE, SEE THE NOV. 19 MINUTES OF THE CINCINNATI PARK BOARD MEETING.)

The reason is simple yet incredibly important to the river’s future as a tourist attraction and visitor destination – the location of the dock being considered by the Park Board would prevent beautiful, large riverboats that are so synonymous with the Ohio River from docking at the Public Landing.

If the Public Landing is blocked, then large vessels like the American Queen could no longer make Cincinnati a destination on their Ohio River voyages. Planning is underway for the next Tall Stacks, a major tourist attraction that brings thousands of visitors and millions of dollars in spending to the region while paying homage to Greater Cincinnati’s great Ohio River heritage. But it would cease to exist on the Cincinnati side of the river under the Park Board’s plan.

I have served on the Water Advisory Committee since 1984, and for years we have discussed a new marina. And the majority opinion has always been locating it at the foot of Main Street.

I am not alone in expressing my concerns.

Following are excerpts from a Dec. 16 written to the Park Board by Gary Frommelt, Vice President of Marine Operations for the American Queen Steamboat Company:

“It appears to me that a development of this magnitude would compromise the ability for the large, overnight riverboats to make a landing in Cincinnati. Our three vessels, all authentic paddlewheel riverboats, most notably the American Queen, a true steamboat, value and certainly wish to continue our planned landings in Cincinnati.

“With the expansion of our fleet, we have more Cincinnati landings planned in the future. In addition to this, other companies are expanding their fleets and operations so I expect riverboat visits such as ours will only increase in frequency to your City.

“We look forward to continued and expanding landings in the Queen City but we also ask the City to ensure proper planning is involved for any future developments to ensure that the Public Landing remains just that – a Public Landing and that ample room is provided so the welcome mat for large riverboats in Cincinnati is always out for our passengers to visit.”

As discussions about a marina/boat dock progress, we ask that the Public Landing maintains the ability to allow large riverboats access for boarding and disembarking passengers.

Captain Alan Bernstein is the second-generation owner of BB Riverboats, which offered its first cruise from Covington Landing in 1980. BB Riverboats moved to Newport’s Riverboat Row in 2005 and now offers cruises on three certified passenger vessles.

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