ESSEX | The Town of Essex passed a resolution at its Dec. 29th meeting urging the Lake Champlain Transportation Co. to maintain a ferry connection between the hamlet and Charlotte, Vt., which is scheduled to close indefinitely on Jan. 4.
The Essex County Supervisors passed a similar resolution at their last December meeting of the year, and Vermont governments have done the same. The resolutions are largely symbolic, but Essex Supervisor Ken Hughes said he hopes that they will at least build a foundation of community support as local governments appeal to state and federal representatives for support.
Ferry officials did not respond to an email request for comment, but in the announcement of the closure cited low ridership attributable at least in part to the ongoing pandemic that has kept many people at home.
Along with the resolutions, Hughes said an online petition quickly gathered nearly 3,000 signatures.
Without the ferry, travelers in Essex must drive south to the Champlain Bridge in Crown Point or north to the ferry at Cumberland Head — trips of between 30 and 40 miles that take in the neighborhood of three-quarters of an hour.
The Essex County resolution passed unanimously. The Essex Town vote was 4-1, with Board Member Claire LaPine saying she wasn't comfortable asking a private company to maintain operations on which it is losing money.
The Essex Town resolution, at the suggestion of Board Member Ron Jackson, asks the company to remain open as elected leaders work to help the ferry company’s Essex-Charlotte route remain viable. The company received $1.4 million in government stimulus over the summer, and with a new round of federal stimulus just signed into law, it’s possible more funding could be secured, board members said.
The resolution notes that the ferry represents “essential interstate commerce on a federal waterway,” and Hughes noted that most forms of public transportation are subject to government regulations that maintain essential links.
Board Member Chris DePinto said that as a small-business owner he understands financial pressures that companies face. “I totally get it,” he said. “But this is not a yoga company, this is not a landscape company, this is transportation across the lake that people depend on for work, education and medical care. Talk about essential.”
Along with its commercial importance, Hughes said the ferry crossing, which dates back to 1826, is part of what makes Essex Essex. “There is so much history with the ferry, and it contributes to the historical nature of Essex,” he said. “We don’t want to see the ferry go away; it brings so many people to the area.”
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