Supporters fight to keep ferry afloat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Two groups came together Saturday to help stop what some call an end to a 54-year-old tradition—the St. Johns River Ferry.

Children held up homemade signs to support the ferry and about 100 people signed a petition after learning that the port authority might close the ferry service due to a lack of funding.  

"The choice is do we all say a couple years from now to our kids and grandkids, 'This is where a ferry used to be,' or do we say, 'Let's go ride the ferry and be a part of something that's historic and part of our heritage,'" Bill Gulliford, the founder of Keep the Ferry, a group dedicated to continuing the service.

Aside from tradition and history, many ferry supporters are touting its usefulness to drivers.

"This ferry is essentially a moving bridge," Tom Patton, a Keep the Ferry member said. "This is the only connection on A1A which is contiguous all the way up and down the coast. It would be broken here. Traffic would be forced to go over the Dames Point Bridge or through downtown."

To many locals, the ferry is more than just a mode of transportation. Everyone from cyclists to surfers ride the ferry, which makes more than 50 trips each day.

"The ferry, it's not just a ferry, it's not just a boat, it's not just for entertainment," ferry supporter Don Mathia said. "It's a livelihood for some people."

Mark Blanton and his family use the ferry to travel, like many, to the beach.

"We like it because we go up to Amelia Island and the kids wanted to go to the beach today," Blanton said. "So they like it a lot."

Keep the Ferry plans to hold more events and petition signings.

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