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Ferry Provides Valuable Service

By Staff | Mar 28, 2018

Ken Parsons, Ricochet; Barbara Gage, Sistersville Ferry Board Member; and Bill Rice, Sistersville Mayor; gather to mark a special donation from Parsons, which will help defray Sistersville Ferry operating costs during the ferry's out-of-season service while State Route 7 is closed. (Photo provided)

In case anyone had any doubts, a treasured community mainstay has certainly proved its usefulness recently, as well as perhaps found some new fans.

The Sistersville Ferry opened for a special season while portions of Ohio State Route 7 are closed, due to landslide mitigation.

On March 17, West Virginia’s Department of Transportation announced Ohio Department of Transportation would be detouring traffic from Ohio State Route 7 (OHSR7) to West Virginia State Route 2 via the St. Marys and New Martinsville bridges. According to WVDOT, this detour was due to landslide mitigation work on OHSR7. The WVDOT estimated this detour would take approximately two weeks.

Within a few days, the Sistersville Ferry Board stepped into action, announcing a special schedule, effective Monday, March 26. Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the ferry would be available for folks not wanting to take a detour via land and, instead, take advantage of the scenic and unique route the ferry offers.

“We hope this alleviates travel issues for Ohio and West Virginia residents,” read a statement via the “Sistersville Ferry, Legacy” Facebook page.

“Right now we are running five days a week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Sistersville Ferry Board Member Barbara Gage stated on Wednesday, March 28. Gage said the OHSR7 work was to take two weeks; however, the ferry board promised to operate the ferry during this time, as long as the detour takes.

After the detour is finished, the ferry will shutdown until its opening day in early May.

“We have had a lot of traffic,” Gage noted. “On the first day we had almost 120 vehicles, but it really has been well used. We have had a lot of people respond that they are so grateful, because the condition of Route 2 is so bad.

Gage said normally the ferry does not run overtime hours, but because it is running 60 hours a week — during this special season — it means overtime. “That is expensive for us,” Gage said.

She noted, “I do hope people understand we need to go back to the regular season. We need to make sure our revenues match the expenditures.”

Gage explained board member Alex King reached out to local business owner Ken Parsons, of Ricochet. Parsons generously donated $3,000, which should defray costs of overtime, “and then some,” according to Gage.

Gage described Parsons’ donation as “very gracious.”

“We really appreciate it,” she said

“We weren’t sure what kind of traffic we would have; we don’t have a tremendous surplus of funds, but we have enough to start the season to make sure we don’t go in the red,” Gage said.

King noted that Parsons and his wife “are wonderful people.”

“Tyler County is lucky to have them and their business Ricochet. The donation will go a long way toward the extra hours of operation and the continued sustainability of the Sistersville Ferry.”

King also noted that the board has pulled together.

“Everyone was able to offer something so the ferry could run during this time.”

Gage said currently five serve on the ferry board, and two positions are available. Gage said the board is looking for people who want to put sincere time and effort into the ferry board.

Gage does anticipate some fundraising endeavors for the upcoming ferry season, as the ferry is a self-sustaining operation. Operating costs come from fares, donations, special events, and grants. If costs are not meant, the ferry would have to shutdown.

“We will run cruises, so people can rent the ferry for two to three hours We have talked about our big fundraiser, the fireworks cruise. We are planning on doing that again this year. Other than that, we do have some grant monies. Any donations that come in are matched by a rural transit grant, so donations are appreciated and any other funds we raise, through the sales of post cards and through cruises and things like that, are matched by the rural transit grant.”

When asked if the weather can impact the ferry service, Gage said the decision is always made by the captain, with the public’s safety in mind. According to the “Sistersville Ferry, Legacy” Facebook page, the ferry would be closed if “winds are very strong from a certain direction.” This would cause the ferry and barge to collide unsafely. Or, if the Ohio River is too high or too low, docking might be too dangerous at the landing. “We are at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

Gage said the captain will post closings on the Facebook page. And speaking of the captain, Gage said the board is in the market for another captain. By no means is the current, much-appreciated and hardworking captain retiring; however, Gage said the board does like to have a back-up captain.

Rates for the ferry are as follows; walkers, $1; motorcycles, $4; cars, $5; extra axles, $3 each; box-size trucks, $10; and semis, $18. During its regular season, beginning in May through October, the ferry is open Thursdays and Fridays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the ferry is open Saturday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The ferry’s crew works on demand. If there is a vehicle on the opposite landing, the captain will cross to pick up the riders.

“We are really appreciating the community support,” Gage noted. “We want people to use the ferry while it is running and take advantage of it, now and during the regular season.”