ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Belle II and the Fox River Queen paddlewheel riverboats have been a common sight making their way up and down the Fox River in St. Charles.
Rich Anderson, owner and operator of the St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats for 32 years, decided to retire in December to spend more time with his family. But the two paddlewheel boats will be back in the water in a few months under the operation of the St. Charles Park District.
"We felt at the Park District that the business was iconic and important and our district agreed to purchase it," St. Charles Park District Director Holly Cabel told those gathered at the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce Women's Business Council luncheon at the Hotel Baker on Feb. 28. Cabel was part of a panel discussion about "The Future Of St. Charles."
The news was met with applause from those at the luncheon.
Rich Anderson, the second generation owner of St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats, inherited the business from his father and company founder Chet Anderson in the late 1980s. The family-owned business had offered daily sightseeing trips and private group charters from Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles since 1945.
"He's going to consult with us as needed for this first operational year," Cabel said following the panel discussion. "But we'll be running and operating the paddleboats."
Several newer boats over the years replaced the original Honeymoon Queen boat. The boats that are currently in service were built in the 1980s.
The district purchased the two boats for $500,000, which also included the acquisition of land for the boat launch area, she said. The two boats are currently in dry dock, but weekend sightseeing trips will begin in May.
"Then we will go seven days a week starting in June," Cabel said.
The Park District will offer both public and chartered paddleboat cruises. She said the district is excited about the new venture.
"It's been something coming out of our park for 70 some years and half the people thought we ran them any way," Cabel said. "We're keeping pretty much the schedule that was working before."
The acquisition will ensure the paddleboats will continue to operate.
"I think some people were worried when Rich retired what was going to happen," Cabel said.
More information is available by contacting Jennifer Bruggeman at the St. Charles Park District at 630-584-2334.