If you’ve lived in New Brunswick for any length time, you’ve certainly run into one of its former users. The Gagetown ferry, that is. It’s been operating for around 90 years at the same dock, and is one of the highest traffic cable ferries in Atlantic Canada.
It failed to receive funding from the government this year, but it hasn’t gone away silently, community members have banded together to try to force the government to reinstate it, some even pointed out the study the province did on the ferry’s benefits in 2009.
“The Allaby report is a key piece of evidence, it was conducted by the province to examine and, in their hopes I think, give them a reason to cut it. This wasn’t the case though, the report actually came out in favour of the ferry, stating it should be maintained” said Wilf Hiscock, the spokesperson for Save the Gagetown Ferry, a social media organisation.
Hiscock later said the report conducted was by former MLA Eric Allaby that even hinted at improving the services of the ferry, noting that it added more than its fair share of economic benefit on the region.
Hiscock isn’t the only one rooting for the ferry’s continued success though. Some fs in the region are dealing with the repercussions of the closure – Namely, the fact that it causes inconveniences when dealing with their heavy farm equipment.
“My farm is 10 kilometres down the road,” said Hugh Harmon, a farmer from lower Gagetown “it takes me 17 minutes to get from my farm to my 300 acres of fields…without the ferry it’s gonna take me over an hour…I use this ferry a lot, it’s gonna affect my bottom line a lot.”
And to members of the community, the numbers just don’t add up. Andrew McGinnis, a resident and ferry user, said it seems like the province didn’t really examine the impact it might have.
“Not only did they not do their homework, but the whole issue wasn’t really considered. Our concern is they’re boxing themselves into having said ‘it’s gone’…it’s gonna be hard for them to have the intestinal fortitude to say ‘Well perhaps we made a mistake'”
“People are working, there’s a nursing home and two special care homes in this area,” said Connie Denby, a long-time resident of the region and member of a group looking to save it “there are people working for minimum wage at the u-picks, vegetable stands and what have you. By the time they drive around…is it really worth their while?”
Denby said she’s still surprised at the move, noting that the ferry acted as a sure-fire way to promote local businesses and keep people in the community employed instead of drawing social assistance to sustain themselves. “In the end, I really find it just sickening to think that the government that’s supposed to represent us neglected to look at the numbers before pulling one of our best resources.” An attempt was made to reach the provincial government for comment, but no response was received. Members of the group are also quick to raise a point that there’s a safety aspect to the closure of the ferry. In the event of an emergency, first responders traditionally used the ferry to reduce response time. The extra minutes added onto the trip to the community could be an issue of life and death for some.
“The government says this is a way to cut costs, but if they’d just read their own internal reports, they’d see that [this cut] does more harm than good. It’s amazing to me that they even considered it an option,” said Hiscock “Sure, it might not be very high traffic late at night, but we had it running 18 hours a day [instead of the previous 24-hour cycle] this last year and that was fine. We’re reasonable people, we can deal with that.”
For more on this story, view the short documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yColo4swWes
Additionally, a radio report on the ferry’s closure was broadcast on CHSR, listen here: http://chsrfm.ca/blog/specialty/lunchbox/stu201601