It’s not uncommon for city fathers to periodically address parking issues in the downtown area. Now the city finds itself having to address a “parking” issue that could exist a bit further east.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council (NMEDC), City Manager Jeff LaGarce reported that there will at times be a lack of riverfront space to accommodate visiting riverboats wanting to dock in Hannibal.
“There’s not enough port space,” LaGarce told the group.
Most of the time the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sir Randall tugboat have the water front to themselves. However, last year Hannibal again became a popular destination for large riverboats taking passengers on cruises up and down the Mississippi River. And while there’s more than enough space to accommodate one of the large riverboats, it would be a challenge for two of big boats to visit simultaneously and have direct access to dry land.
Such a “double booking” was slated to occur earlier this year. However, high water forced the boats to cancel planned trips up the Mississippi. LaGarce reports that within the next calendar year “three to four” double bookings are already scheduled.
It’s possible that the number of double bookings could grow, if the Spirit of Peoria, a paddlewheeler which made its inaugural stop in America’s Hometown earlier this week, returns in the future. Already making regular stops in Hannibal are the Queen of the Mississippi and the American Queen.
Some suggestions were offered during Wednesday’s meeting. One idea was to dock an extra boat at BASF or Quincy, Ill., and bus the passengers down. It was also suggested “stacking” boats and have passengers cross other boats in order to reach shore.
“We’ve done double docking before, but it worked because both boats were owned by the same company,” said George Walley, executive director of the NMEDC, adding that frequently because of the competitive nature of the riverboat business companies are not inclined to cooperate with one another.
Another potential solution is to expand the riverfront docking area, which LaGarce acknowledged would be an expensive venture for the city to shoulder just to accommodate a handful of scheduling conflicts.
Walley said state money for river ports is available, but added the process is competitive.
It was also noted that the state’s funding preference typically goes to industrial entities, which use port improvements on a regular basis.
Another option proposed was to have a boat dock just north of the riverfront, provided access to privately-owned property can be secured.
“We could do something up shore with minimal expense,” said LaGarce. “We do not need a full-blown port, just somewhere where passengers have access to get off a boat.”
Page 2 of 2 - Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau, is already working with the various companies regarding their schedules, according to LaGarce.
“We do not want to lose any boats,” said LaGarce. “We work to bring in motorcoaches of 60 people. One of these boats can bring in up to 450 people.”