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Ferry campaign gathers steam

Supporters on both sides of Francois Lake: organizer
The campaign for 20-hour service on the free Francois Lake ferry has garnered support on both sides of the lake, according to one organizer. (Lakes District News file photo)

The campaign for extended ferry service appears to be gaining momentum, with one organizer saying that support has cropped up on both sides of Francois Lake.

The latest meeting in support of 20-hour daily service across the lake brought out roughly 15 to the boardroom at the Cheslatta Carrier Nation on April 19, said Catherine Van Tine Marcinek.

The campaigners have so far gathered close to 20 letters of support, and a petition with many pages of signatures, she said.

Support for the initiative remains practically unanimous, she said, although she added that someone living close to the main road expressed concern about traffic in the area increasing due to prolonged ferry service.

But the campaigners may have won over this doubter. “By the end of the meeting he was almost signing our petition,” Van Tine Marcinek said. “Give him a couple days, he said, he’ll probably sign it.”

While the campaign is geared towards the transport needs of Southside residents, many people living north of Francois Lake have conveyed their support for the initiative, she said.

“The feedback that we’re getting from Northsiders, who don’t normally depend on the ferry is overwhelming,” Van Tine Marcinek said.

People from the Southside can’t attend cultural events north of the lake without leaving early, she said — and vice versa.

She also noted that many people living in the Burns Lake area are cut off from family events on the Southside. “When you’re over here on holidays, you turn into a pumpkin at 9 o’clock, because you have to run to the ferry,” she said.

While there is a road that goes around Francois Lake, it’s a long and winding route that takes perhaps 2.5 hours, compared to 15 minutes on the ferry, which carries passengers free of charge.

Supporters of the campaign are asking the Ministry of Transport to resume a 20-hour schedule for the ferry service, with departures on the hour and half-hour — doing away with the current batch of oddly timed sailings, except for special departures linked to the school bus schedule, which would remain in place.

Under the proposed timetable, operations would start at 5 a.m. and shut down at 1 a.m. daily — instead of the 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. schedule currently in place.

The provincial transport ministry has said the current arrangement balances delivery costs with the needs of residents.