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Culture / Newsy

The Woodlands Loses its Boats, Plots a New Waterway Tourist Attraction

Controversial Cruisers Removed and Shipped to Florida For a New Life

BY // 11.19.18

After 14 years of service and a year in disrepair, the controversial Woodlands Waterway Cruisers will no longer float on in The Woodlands. The custom European-style Waterway Cruisers, which came in at 35 feet with capacity for 35 to 40 people per boat, are heading to Florida.

But they’re not retiring. MCS III Consulting out of Pompano Beach, Florida plans to revamp and refurbish them in the Sunshine State after the damage they suffered during Hurricane Harvey.

The boats were all removed last week, after a painstaking, 13-hour process involving a crane and canvas straps. It wasn’t quite like ripping a band-aid off for the waterway cruisers’ fans.

“It’s an era that’s closed. They’ve been a fixture. They were really an integral part of our downtown area,” Nick Wolda, president of Visit The Woodlands, tells PaperCity. The cruisers had logged more than 434,000 trips along The Woodlands Waterway, carrying roughly half a million passengers over their 14 years.

One of the environmentally friendly, battery-powered boats was still chugging along as of December 2017. But by February, it had sputtered and stopped. But residents of The Woodlands had no reason to think they were going for good.

The Woodlands Waterway Cruisers were donated to the Florida company — a fitting hand-off, as the cruisers had been gifted to the Texas township for free back in 2004.

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But that doesn’t mean the boats were universally adored.

“I think it kind of depends on who you talk to. Everybody’s got an opinion on everything,” Wolda says. “There was a significant amount of people who have ridden the boats over the years. And there are a lot of people who didn’t.”

But one thing is clear — running the boats never cost the taxpayers a thing. The funding came from ticket sales and hotel occupancy taxes.

Restoring the cruisers was prohibitively expensive prospect for Visit The Woodlands.

“After inspection of the boats, we decided not to put any more money into the boats,” Wolda says. It would have costs tens of thousands into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, he adds.

But Visit The Woodlands is feeling the absence.  “It was a regular occurrence. It was part of the Waterway, and it’s no longer part of the Waterway,” Wolda says. “The boats were used in a lot of social media and a lot of ads that depicted The Woodlands.”

Visit The Woodlands is eager for a new attraction to come to the Waterway, an area they believe sets the township apart. “The Woodlands Waterway is a unique feature, a difference from any other shopping and commerce area really in Greater Houston,” Wolda says.

The organization has made their desire for a replacement known with requests for interest. “We’ve had some interest out there, but nothing quite yet has materialized that we could bring forward to the public,” Wolda says.

“It’s to be continued.”

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