Photo by Pat Hazouri

When I was little I thought the ferry that went from the parking lot of Disney World  to the much anticipated main gates rode on tracks. I don’t remember if a family member teasingly told me this or I came up with it myself. It seems a natural deduction for a small child to make — all the other rides are on tracks.

The idea carried over to adulthood, when I tricked an old boyfriend into believing this about the St. John’s River Ferry. I figured a Midwestern boy who hadn’t seen the ocean till he was 27 just might be gullible enough. He was.

The boyfriend’s long gone, a brief part of my history. A much longer and, dare I say it, more important part– the ferry — remains. For now.

The Jacksonville Port Authority has voted to stop supporting ferry operations. Closing the St. John’s River Ferry Service will bring all sorts of problems. Unemployment to ferry workers and the community of Mayport, loss of income to businesses along the A1A route, decreased property values in neighboring communities, loss of eco-tourism and decreased attendance to all the City, State and National Parks along the way, just to name a few.

The Manadnock, 1948

The fight to preserve the ferry is, like all debates of its kind, an effort steeped in politics and money. But to us locals, you can’t put a price on what we stand to lose. The St. John’s River Ferry has been operating here since 1948. On the Keep the Ferry website (where you can sign the petition, donate or volunteer) someone said it best when they wrote “the ferry is so entwined in the history of Mayport that Mayport literally wouldn’t be Mayport without the ferry.” I would extend that to Jacksonville.

Jacksonville will lose a lot of its appeal if the route along its scenic waterway closes. I’ve taken every out of town guest who ever visited for a ferry ride, showing off our beautiful marshes and coastline. I’ve stood with my mom at the ferry rail and watched dolphins roll by. Rode my bike north across A1A and camped at Ft. Clinch. And munched on fried shrimp at Singleton’s while watching the pelicans on ferry pilings.

Riding the ferry, 2004

For myself and every other local, whether boater, cyclist, kayaker or wildlife photographer, it’s about more than unemployment numbers or loss of revenue. It’s personal.

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