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Huge swans afloat in Schenectady's Central Park lake

Huge swans afloat in Schenectady's Central Park lake

Swan boats like the ones that will soon grace Schenectady’s Central Park are rare.
Huge swans afloat in Schenectady's Central Park lake
Julie Rouse, 19, of Rotterdam, left, and Mikaela Burke, 20, of Schenectady, take one of the new swan paddle boats for a spin in Iroquois Lake in Schenectady's Central Park Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

The mythical Lohengrin once crossed a river in a boat pulled by a swan.

That image inspired the first swan paddleboats in Boston in 1877. But today, swan boats like the ones that will soon grace Schenectady’s Central Park are rare.

They were once in New York City’s Central Park, but they’ve been replaced with rowboats, officials there said.

They used to be in Boston, too. But now the only swan boats there are huge, 18-person boats, with bench seating.

It’s not exactly the ideal venue for a romantic engagement, like Schenectady officials are hoping will happen on their swan boats.

On the Central Park lake, the swan boats are two-person paddleboats, self-propelled, with no guide to observe as anxious lovers pop the question.

According to Swanboats of Boston, the original inventors of the boats, they were inspired by a love story: the opera “Lohengrin.” The knight Lohengrin rides in a swan-propelled boat in search of his lady, whose innocence he must defend.

Bostonian Robert Paget invented the paddleboats, but built them to carry up to eight people. The paddler worked behind the passengers, hidden by a pair of carved swans.

He died a year after the first boats hit the water, but his family has managed the swan boat industry in the Boston Public Garden ever since, they said.

Two-person, private swan boats are now more often found in amusement parks and zoos.

City officials are excited about offering them in Schenectady. They are available at the Casino restaurant in Central Park. The rates are $8 for a 30-minute rental and $12 for an hourlong trip around the lake.

There will also be new four-person paddleboats, costing $6 and $8 respectively for half-hour and hour rentals.

The rates are higher than they were when the city last offered paddleboats, but the goal is to charge enough money to keep the boats well-maintained.

The city’s previous paddleboats slowly deteriorated, and eventually the last ones had to be taken out of service more than a year ago. That left the lake without a single boat — until now.

The boats were purchased with a $12,000 grant intended to help keep the Casino restaurant open.

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