Fans of Fredericktown Ferry Seek Support to Keep It Afloat
Washington PA Observer Reporter
2 March 2013
By Scott Beveridge, Staff Writer
FREDERICKTOWN – Bar owner John Bower, whose business sits at the
Washington County entrance to the historic Ferryboat Frederick,
says he has been beating his “head against a brick wall” to keep
the vessel afloat on the Monongahela River.
“It’s one of the most beautiful tourism attractions in Washington
County and nobody’s interested,” said Bower, co-owner of Bower
Brothers Lounge in Fredericktown.
Bower organized the Fredericktown Ferry Festival in 2010 in an
attempt to draw tourism to the village in East Bethlehem Township
at a time when the ferry was under threat of permanent dry docking
because a new nearby bridge was under construction.
Opposition to its demise was overwhelming, prompting commissioners
in Washington and Fayette counties to pledge to keep the vessel
afloat after the new Mon-Fayette Expressway bridge opened last
year between Centerville and Brownsville.
The 2011 election, however, changed the makeup of the commissioner
offices, which are again considering scrapping the ferry because
ridership is down and costs are increasing to keep it running.
This time, commissioners say, there hasn’t been much outcry from
the public about the plan.
“I’ve gotten two emails since mid-February,” said Angela M.
Zimmerlink, a commissioner in Fayette, the county that operates
the ferry service, splitting its nearly $200,000 annual cost with
Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober said he has received
only a couple of emails about the ferry since it came under threat
again last month, and that he’s heard from people who don’t want
the county to spend any more taxpayer money on the service.
Another proposal was issued last week by a Fredericktown
businessman who wants to put the boat in a museum along the river.
“It’s going to take the counties and local people to keep this
thing going,” Shober said Thursday.
In an attempt to draw attention to the ferry, a group of
historians has created a Facebook page, Friends of Fredericktown
Ferry, as a place for people to share photos and memories of the
vessel, one of several used in the 200-year-old service.
“We’re just trying to get people interested,” said the page’s
creator, Evan Williams, a Carmichaels native now living in
Connecticut. “A lot of people don’t know it’s even still there.
It’s not promoted very well.”
Williams said one of the page’s purposes is to determine if there
is enough interest in raising money to keep the boat in the water.
“It’s actually a functioning piece of history,” he said.
The boat used to carry 200 vehicles a day, mostly driven by
employees of the State Correctional Insitution-Fayette, which is
across the river from Fredericktown. That number has dropped
nearly in half since the new bridge opened in July.
Bower said more people would use the ferry if its hours of
operation were reliable.
“If they knew it was going to be open they’d use it,” he said.
Zimmerlink said she isn’t aware of any issues with the boat being
out of operation during normal hours.
She said the commissioners have not set a deadline for making a
decision on the future of the ferry.