New 24-car ferry a relief for residents of Deer Island, N.B.
Published Saturday, October 15, 2016 6:54PM ADT
On Saturday, a new ferry was christened on a New Brunswick island that desperately depends on its ferries.
Near the U.S. border, Deer Island is a five kilometer ferry ride away from New Brunswick’s mainland. Fishing and tourism sustain the approximately 800 islanders.
On Saturday, about 100 residents helped christen the Abnaki II with bottle of New Brunswick-made Moose Light beer.
The 24-car ferry, built in Saint John, is named after the Abnaki, the First Nations people who first inhabited the area.
Residents of the island say they were worried their ferry service would be cut back. One island resident has been the driving force behind a campaign to ensure the service isn't abandoned.
"I’m very determined. I don't give up easy," says West Isles local service district chairperson Joyce Stuart. "It’s our highway, let's face it. It's our highway, is what these ferries are."
"This is a place where we have four churches, two Baptist, and two Church of Christ. Catholic, you have to go to the mainland. And if you really, really want nice people, this is it,” says Deer Island resident Candy Hunter.
The importance of the service isn't lost on the local MLA.
"This has been on my radar for the last 14 years. I was in business beforehand and certainly have an acute knowledge to what these ferries are all about. This is their transportation; their link, their highway to the mainland," says Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Rick Doucet.
New Brunswick’s minister of transportation, who has spent the past few months defending the government's decision to cut the Gagetown ferry, says the new ferry is a welcome change.
"It’s a New Brunswick built vessel. It's operated by New Brunswickers and serving New Brunswickers," says Minister Bill Fraser.
Joyce Stuart says she isn't letting up on her campaign.
"We need the ferry earlier in the morning, the six o’clock is fine, but then there isn't one until 7:30. There's one six, one seven and one at 7:30, but we need one in there at 6:30 from Deer Island,” says Stuart.
The previous ferry, John E Rigby, will now retire. If any other ferry in the system breaks down, it will replace it.
The new ferry cost about $8 million.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.