St. Lucie River Princess boat tours to close

Posted at 11:18 PM, Mar 10, 2016

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Captain of the River Princess on the St. Lucie River announced last week that he has planned his final river boat tour.

Capt. Ray Clarke is the latest business owner on the Treasure Coast to close up shop, blaming fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee and local runoff.

Clarke says he is 'embarrassed' to show people the conditions on the St. Lucie River.

He wrote in a letter to the city "It is with sadness that I must notify you I will be ceasing the Rivergate operation of the St. Lucie River Princess effective at the end of the month….It's an embarrassment to take take passengers out on an ecological historical tour."

He started the river boat tours six years ago, wanting to show people the wildlife and beauty on the river. It was his dream, he says.

"I read where only 2% of the people in Port St. Lucie had ever been out on the river…It seemed crazy that so few people knew how beautiful it was out there," Clarke said.

In those years, he says he took at least 15,000 people on the river.

"I'd like to get another 15,000 people out there, but not now, because instead of being proud of the river, it's kind of an embarrassment," Clarke said.

He's urging lawmakers to use more money from Amendment 1 to pay for projects to clean up the river.

"It's become an open sewer," Clarke said.

At 80-years-old, he'd love to keep operating his business if the water was cleaner. But, he's tired of waiting to see long term solutions.

"You just figure it just isn't worth it anymore. It's time to go," Clarke said.

His last tour will be March 31.