Ferry supporters rally in Mayport

Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:58:49 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 25 2012 11:18:00 PM EDT

Hundreds gathered Saturday for "Ferry Fest", designed to help keep the transportation source from shutting down.

MAYPORT, Fla. -

A Sept. 30 deadline and $200,000 budget shortfall still have the St. Johns River Ferry on the chopping block.

Supporters rallied in Mayport Village Saturday to raise awareness and funds for the ship.

The Florida Department of Transportation withdrew their pledge to help fund the ferry before the September shutdown.

JAXPORT, which controls operation of the ferry, said the cost of operating the ferry had grown past their budget.

Members of the task force created to keep the boat afloat argue it doesn't make fiscal sense to scrap the vessel.

"This is A1A. And if we cut off A1A in Duval County, we cut out tourism, we cut out a lot of these business. Across the street, Singleton's restaurant, 60 percent of their business comes from the ferry. We'll lose jobs. We'll lose tourism. We got to keep the ferry," said former City Council member Elaine Brown.

The ferry connects Mayport and Ft. George Island.

A FDOT survey done of 3,000 ferry riders completed in March and April showed 46 percent were locals using the ferry for fun, sun and food.

Twenty-nine percent of people were commuting to and from work and 15 percent were tourists.

Just over 60 percent of riders began their trips in Duval County, followed by 25 percent starting in Nassau County. Only 5 percent started in St. Johns County, 1 percent in Clay County and 8 percent from outside the four-county region.

The report makes no recommendation on whether the ferry should continue operating or how to pay for it.

Former state representative and Republican State Senate Candidate Aaron Bean attended Saturday's event.  He said the state should honor its previous pledge to help keep the ferry running.

"It's an important link.  It links a state highway. So, we want to make sure the state honors its obligation by keeping this highway open. It happens this highway goes over water," Bean said.

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