Gagetown ferry deemed unseaworthy and faces uncertain future

People in Gagetown are worried about the future of their ferry service after an inspection three weeks ago found the cable ferry is no longer seaworthy.

Area residents are worried the cable ferry crossing the Saint John River will never run again

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      People in Gagetown are worried about the future of their ferry service after an inspection three weeks ago found the cable ferry is no longer seaworthy.

      The ferry used to cross the Saint John River, carrying vehicles and passengers between Gagetown and Jemseg.

      Despite the fact the ferry cannot cross the river, its engine continues to run and a crew has been moving it every 20 to 30 minutes in an effort to keep ice from crushing its hull.

      Barbara Masters, who owns the Creek View Restaurant in Gagetown, says if the village loses the ferry local businesses will take a big hit.

      "It would impact my business 15 to 20 per cent because of the tourist attraction traffic and just people that remember the ferry, come down and take a little drive on the ferry on their Sunday drive, and then keep on going," Masters said.

      Transportation Minister Roger Melanson says the ferry repairs fall under the strategic program review that is underway and as a result he can't commit to keeping it in operation until the cost of the repairs has been tallied.

      "We're doing the inspection, we're doing the analysis in due course and I can't even say at this time when the ferry would be put back into service," Melanson said.

      Gagetown has lost a number of cable ferries to budget cuts in the past. Upper Gagetown and Central Hampstead both had ferry services but the ferry to Jemseg is the only one that remains. 

      In the 2009-10 budget, the government led by Liberal Shawn Graham announced it would discontinue the Gagetown ferry, among others. Following a lobby effort to save the service, the government relented and implemented a reduction in service rather than stopping the Gagetown service altogether.

      A trip on the ferry to Jemseg takes just five minutes while the drive takes about 40 minutes, but Masters says locals are more concerned about the survival of the community than they are about the longer drive.

      "I hear from everyone, 'Here we go again,'" said Masters. "You know, we are afraid for our school, we don't have the enrolment we should so we're afraid for our school and we're afraid for our ferry. We keep losing."

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