Courtesy of Kentucky River Tours

By Zack McDonald | The State Journal

Through a public-private partnership, city officials are hoping to double their ability to interest locals and visitors alike in Frankfort history while floating the Kentucky River.

City commissioners unanimously approved the measure last week to partner with Kentucky River Boat Tours LLC. The agreement would allow the company’s vessel, “Trace of Kentucky,” to join Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites’ boat, “The Nancy Wilkinson,” to conduct historic tours in the summer and fall months along the river.

While saving the city thousands of dollars, it will also double the number of people able to tour the river at any given time.

Robin Antenucci, executive director of Frankfort-Franklin County Tourist and Convention Commission, said tourism officials fully supported the partnership.

“The demand for tours like this are high,” Antenucci said. “While ‘The Nancy Wilkinson’ did a great job … it was difficult to accommodate tourists, especially during peak months of the summer. I know this will help promote tourism.”

“The Nancy Wilkinson” | Courtesy Frankfort Parks and Recreation

Currently, eight people can be aboard “The Nancy Wilkinson” at once. That excludes anyone under the age of 10.

Capt. Nathan Depenbrock and Capt. Clayton Embly, partners with Kentucky River Boat Tours, presented an alternative that would double the number of riders at any given time, including those under 10.

“Our vessel will double the capacity the city has been able to take on tours and open tours up to visitors of all ages, including children who were not eligible on the previous vessel,” Depenbrock said. “The tour we offer will be similar to that offered by the parks historical one: enjoying the sights and sounds of downtown Frankfort and surrounding countryside, while interpreting the history of this great river and its impacts on our great town.”

Riverboat tour season spans from May 1 to Oct. 31, weather permitting. In that time, Kentucky River Boat Tours touts that it will pay the city $3,000 to offset the current $9,500 it spends on gas and staff. Kentucky River Boat Tours said the funds would come from paying the city $60 per tour as well as for use of a boat slip, easing the fiscal liability on the city.

Embly, a 30-year-veteran of U.S. Merchant Marine, said safety will be paramount aboard the Trace of Kentucky.

“We look forward to introducing the river to a lot of people here in Frankfort that don’t get to experience it, people of Kentucky who don’t get to experience it and, frankly, people from all over the country,” Embly said. “There’s an old saying: Safety is not a once-in-a-lifetime thing; it’s an everyday thing.”