Tonawanda News

The City

May 2, 2013

Gateway to summer

Tonawanda News — While last year’s dry weather had its pros on cons, it did give an exceptional early boost to the boating season, one of the Twin Cities’ main summer economic and cultural drivers.

Both sides of the Erie Canal had banner years in 2012 with an influx of vessel traffic. North Tonawanda pulled in $19,000 in boater fee revenue and the city $25,000. The municipalities’ Erie Canal shoreline are under the direction of their respective recreation departments.

While figures for previous years weren’t readily available for either city, officials from both say revenue was up significantly from 2011, when wet weather disrupted the early part of the boating season.

However, there was still room for improvement in North Tonawanda, said Larry Kuebler, who took over as Gateway Harbor Master last fall, in addition to his duties as the park maintenance supervisor.

Kuebler said despite the apparent economic gains, a leadership hole was left on the North Tonawanda side of the canal last summer, when the former harbor master left midseason to pursue other job opportunities.

He’s now trying to remedy that gap, with the addition of two full-time employees who he said will lend a more consistent presence to the harbor, where the lack of oversight last year may have caused the loss of some revenue.

“Things just got out of hand down there,” he said. “There was a lot of problems last year and no coordination, nobody really in charge. There was just seasonal college kids and we found they were not showing up.”

Plans for a permanent structure near the Renaissance Bridge are in play for this summer, Kuebler said, rather than a temporary tent that has been used for years as a payment and registration station.

Kuebler said he will also launch early collection fees that will begin this weekend, more than a month ahead of 2012, while he is researching the possibility of placing cameras near the canal that he said would better track the number of boats and the collection of fees.

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