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Pilgrimage brochures include closed-down riverboat tours

[03/08/01] More than 60,000 brochures for Vicksburg’s Spring Pilgrimage will be distributed around the country but one attraction featured in the brochure will be absent when tourists come to town.

Mississippi River Adventures, owned by David and Peggy Schaeffer, shut down jet boat water excursions from City Front in January.

Peggy Schaeffer said she did not blame anyone for the closing of the river tour business and indicated her business or another operator may return but not this year.

The critical point came when the City of Vicksburg denied renewal of the Schaeffers’ lease to use a city barge, citing damage it had sustained.

Although the Schaeffers asked to operate a river tour at another location and the city agreed to discuss it, no tour will be available this year, Peggy Schaeffer said.

“We don’t have a place on the river or a boat this season,” Schaeffer said. “We are trying to find someone else who may want to continue providing river tours.”

The damage dates to December 1998 when tank barges broke loose from Yazoo River Towing and struck the mooring barge being used by Mississippi River Adventures.

J.O. Smith, owner of Yazoo River Towing, said the city expected him to pay $10,000 to repair the boat although the barge’s owner was supposed to repair it first and then present him a bill of actual costs.

City attorney Nancy Thomas said that was not the city’s interpretation of the law.

Daniel D. Chewning of Merrill Marine Services Inc., surveyed the damage and came up with an estimated cost of repairs for $10,000, but while the case is pending, the city ruled the barges were not seaworthy and could no longer be used.

The barge will not be repaired and is being auctioned to the highest bidder. Bids will be accepted until 5 p.m. March 16 and will be opened March 19, Thomas said.

The barge will be sold as is, she said.

Other attractions, such as the Balfour House, the Southern Cultural Heritage Complex and Duff Green Mansion, will be open to tourists during the pilgrimage that will run March 24-April 7.

“Unfortunately, the river boat will not be an attraction,” Al Elmore of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “We did not know that at the time the brochures were printed.”

Elmore said the brochures were printed in the fall and are being distributed to anyone who makes inquiries about Vicksburg, to all Mississippi welcome centers, to the Jackson airport and to local restaurants, motels and attractions.

The boat tour was a tourist favorite and was experienced by people all over the world who came to visit the city, Schaeffer said.

Meanwhile, the Schaeffers are moving on and not certain if they will be involved in the boat tour business in the future, Peggy Schaeffer said.

“As bad as everyone feels about us leaving, no one feels as bad as we do,” she said.