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Published March 20 2014

Forum editorial: Find way to keep boat afloat

A change in regulations should not be reason enough to beach the S.S. Ruby, the popular excursion boat that plies the Red River in summer. The Moorhead-based boat affords passengers – 17 at a time under old regulations – a grand opportunity to view the wooded beauty and wild aspects of an urban river corridor. River Keepers river advocacy group has done an excellent job of operating the service but has threatened to sell the boat. River communities should find a way to keep it going.

The boat has symbolic and practical value. At a time when Fargo and Moorhead are promoting the river as a unique amenity rather than a threat, the S.S. Ruby is a symbol of that effort. To scuttle the boat would send a mixed signal about commitment to the river’s development.

Practically the boat is a floating history/heritage/nature classroom that brings students and others up close to the river’s marvels. The science, lore and legend of the riverine environment, from floods to wildlife habit, from riverboat history to water supply, come alive during boat tours.

New U.S. Coast Guard regulations require captains to have more days of training; passenger capacity of the boat would be reduced slightly. Those requirements should not be enough to sink the boat.

River Keepers operates the Ruby at a loss, even with support from the Fargo Park District, and through memberships in River Keepers. But if the only factor in operating the boat is making a profit, then Ruby’s real values have been devalued.

Moorhead Council member Nancy Otto suggested partnerships be investigated that could pool resources to keep the boat afloat, and associated canoe and kayak rentals operating. Good idea. If Fargo, Moorhead and private river advocates are serious about developing the Red in conjunction with downtown(s) urban renaissance, the S.S. Ruby fits that purpose very well.

Find a way to do it. The alternative would be an embarrassment.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.