Above: A Duck boat splashes into the fountain in Rittenhouse Square during a test run of a proposed idea that would permit the sightseeing amphibious vehicles to regularly use the small collections of water.Philadelphia, PA--The following could possibly be overheard at many of Center City's crowded parks come the spring: "Mommy, the penny I just threw in the fountain was just run over by that big boat-truck thingy, does that mean my wish won't come true? Honey, I can't hear you over the quacking whistles, you'll have to speak louder."
The Ride the Ducks sightseeing amphibious vehicles have been missing from Philadelphia since the tragic accident on July 7 that claimed the lives of two Hungarian tourists after a collision with a barge on the Delaware River. Despite this, the company is forecasting a March 2011 return to the waters that does not include either the Schuylkill or the Delaware Rivers.
If not the rivers, then where? Well, if the company and city have there way, how about the plethora of ornate fountains that often center many of our urban parks?
"We want to put the amphib back in amphibious," said Carl Baker, a Philadelphia Ride the Ducks representative. "We've been out of operation these past several months and we're itching to get back on the city's waterways. Plus, it would only be the larger fountains ... and a handful of smaller ones and really small ones."
That's right, move over pennies, watch out swimming residents and heads up to those gathered along the fountains' edges, Ride the Ducks could be your new neighbor.
The Georgia-based company has made it clear that they will cover all costs to retrofit fountains to accommodate its bulky fleet. If a fountain is too small, for example in Fitler Square, Ride the Ducks will call for a redesign, and, in some cases, bring in entirely new fountains, so that a Duck can fit and make several "comfortable" laps.
"The depth of the fountains is really our main concern right now," said Vince Buster, vice president of the Greater Philadelphia Office of Tourism and Marketing, who is strongly backing the plan. "The average water depth of a fountain in the city is 1.4 feet, which is well below the 6.1 feet required for a Duck boat to float. As we found out last week during the test runs, the Ducks are more driving through the fountain water than cruising. So, is it really a true amphibious tour of the city? I don't know how to answer that."
Don't look for skate boards to return any time soon to Love Park, but do keep your eyes out for Ride the Ducks in the popular fountain in the middle of the bustling downtown square. Also, the company has requested that the dyeing of the fountain's water, which has become hugely popular in recent years, be halted out of "fear of staining the amphibious vehicles' white hulls."
City officials were excited about the idea of large, noisy vehicles climbing and descending small ramps and plunging into the historic works of art.
"When I heard the idea," said Valorie Strohman, an adviser to Mayor Michael Nutter, "I pictured me and my family quacking away with the Wacky Quacker whistles as the Duck vehicle splashed into the fountain at Logan Circle. What a great learning experience that would be for the kids. Plus, it'd be loads of fun."
For the proposed idea to be approved, it is believed that Ride the Ducks must provide the mayor and members of City Council with an "endless supply of quacking whistles." This could be a deal breaker for a company who has a patent not only on the Wacky Quackers themselves but their sound as well.
"I don't know about shelling out an endless supply of Wacky Quackers," said Baker. "That's a little steep. We're kind of funny when it comes to our whistles, but we'd be more than happy to give one per councilperson ... and a coupon for a Chic-fil-A sandwich. However, not all Chic-fil-A's are participating."