Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ferry Godmothers

On page 40 of the 1994 book, Virginia Trivia, by Ernie & Jill Couch, we find this Q&A:

Q: What is the last pole-powered ferry in Virginia?
A: Hatton Ferry, on the James River.
What was true in 1994 is still true in 2009.

As a matter of fact, I wrote about the Hatton Ferry just a few weeks ago, when it was announced by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) that it would stop using taxpayer dollars to subsidize the ferry's operations.

The title of my blogpost that day explains my viewpoint:
VDOT Should Not Be Running Quaint Tourist Attractions
As if to justify my denotation of the Hatton Ferry as a "quaint tourist attraction," it seems that travel writers are in agreement. The ferry is suggested as an off-the-beaten-path thing to see in Lonely Planet Virginia & the Capital Region, Moon Virginia: Including Washington, D.C., Gourmet Getaways: 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn, Journey on the James: Three Weeks Through the Heart of Virginia, Whitewater!: The Thrill and Skill of Running the World's Great Rivers, The Unofficial Guide to the Mid-Atlantic with Kids, Fodor's Virginia and Maryland, Escape Plans: Quick Getaways Within Easy Reach of Washington, Frommer's Virginia, and The James River Guide, as well as the aforementioned Virginia Trivia.

When I wrote about the Hatton Ferry in May, I noted that members of the local Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society were mourning its demise and engaging in special-pleading, asking VDOT to reverse its decision. I argued:
If the Hatton Ferry really has value, then the historical society will be able to arrange to buy it and run it privately. It should not be the responsibility of the government, and thus a burden to taxpayers.
Well, it seems my advice has been followed. Brandon Shulleeta reports in today's Daily Progress:
Local community leaders have been hitting the pavement to raise money to keep the Hatton Ferry running, and they already have enough to operate the ferry this year.

“We’re pleased with both the size and the number of contributions,” said E Marshall Pryor III, director of Old Dominion National Bank in Scottsville.

Pryor, who is heading the fundraising effort, said that there have been more than 75 donors and that enough money has also been collected to pay for about 20 percent to 25 percent of the projected cost to operate the ferry in 2010.
The ferry's operation will be returned to the private sector, where it has always belonged:
[Albemarle Supervisor Lindsay] Dorrier, who estimates that it will cost about $21,000 per year to operate the ferry, said the long-term goal is to hand over financial responsibilities to a nonprofit organization. Pryor said some groups are entertaining the idea of taking over the Hatton Ferry.
Let me parse that a bit: "some groups" are interested in taking over the ferry.

That means that, not only is government support and subsidy not necessary to keep the ferry running, there is competition among private organizations to lay claim to it.

Good old private enterprise. Good old private philanthropy. Good old community initiative. It's the American way.

The Daily Progress even points to the way that readers can help keep the Hatton Ferry in motion:
Anyone wishing to contribute may send a tax-deductible donation to the Hatton Ferry Fund, c/o Old Dominion National Bank, P.O. Box 321, Scottsville, VA 24590.
It looks like VDOT won't have to continue running a quaint tourist attraction, after all. Let's hope the Hatton Ferry's poles stay in private hands from this point forward.

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