Wisconsin News

Julia Belle Swain now a non-profit

Foundation works to maintain steamboat in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The Julia Belle Swain Foundation is now a non-profit company.

The Foundation works to maintain the Julia Belle Swain steamboat that was built in 1971 and modeled after those built in the early 19th century.

Major renovations will be made to the Julia Belle Swain for safety reasons and to be ADA compliant.

"We are adding an elevator. We are adding ball thrusters for more safety maneuvering in Riverside Park. In case of any type of boiler malfunction or the paddlewheel malfunction, we'll have a single safety engine to propel along," said John Desmond, president of the Julia Belle Swain Foundation. "We're actually removing the exterior skin of the upper decks two and three and we're going to widen that out and so that will accommodate more passengers comfort and it'll be environmentally controlled. It's a complete remake of the boat. We consider it a 50-year remake."

The steamboat will also get heating and air conditioning for client comfort.

Desmond said the Foundation had to run all of its plans through the United States Coast Guard and that was recently approved. Now that the plan has been approved, the Foundation can put out bids. The project is estimated to cost about $1.7 million.

"It's a great project for La Crosse and the community and it adds another piece of excitement to downtown La Crosse and another tourism attraction for western Wisconsin," Desmond said.

Desmond said the plan is to have the Julia Belle Swain in service by the Spring of 2015 out of Riverside Park.

For more information, visit the Julia Belle Swain Facebook page.

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