JaxPort to give up responsibility for Mayport ferry

Ferry supporters try to figure out who will run boat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Port Authority has announced it will no longer be responsible for operating the St. Johns River Ferry at Mayport after Sept. 30, when it will terminate its contract at the end of the fiscal year.

Ferry supporters were at JaxPort on Monday asking the port authority to give them more time to figure out who can take over the ownership of the ferry.

"No matter what happens, that we will continue to be -- me and my staff and this board -- that we will be your partners," JaxPort CEO Paul Anderson told residents.

JaxPort hopes to support the ferry but says it can no longer afford the upkeep of the aged boat.

"Time, unfortunately, is against us," JaxPort spokeswoman Nancy Rubin said. "Time is not on our side. We have about $4 million in repairs this year that need to be done to the ferry, so someone has to foot that bill."

Supporters were fighting to save the ferry, hoping someone steps forward to front the money to allow its services to continue.

"I live in Atlantic Beach, and if I want to go all the way around, it would probably add a round trip of about 40 miles," said Mitch Reeves, task force member for the ferry.

"It's an important significance to our community, both Naval Air Station, for those who live in the community, for those who take the ferry to and from work," Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown said.

JaxPort said it's done all it can and the ferry is beginning to burden its main business.

"This has not been a hasty decision. This has been a discussion that's been going on since the day we took over the ferry in 2007," Rubin said.

"These losses are hindering our ability to perform," Anderson said. "I haven't heard anyone disputing that."

Everyone in the room agreed on one thing: the hope the ferry stays alive with or without JaxPort.

"The port doesn't want to see the ferry go away, none of my leadership wants to see the ferry go away," Rubin said, "but the question is, who is going to take on the financial burden of owning and operating the service from here?"

The ferry has been around since 1948, and while JaxPort won't operate it come later this year, the community remains optimistic about its future.

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