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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bemus Point-Stow Ferry Operation Set For July 4

‘‘It fits very well with our focus to give people an experience when they come to Chautauqua County.’’— Greg Edwards, county executive

6/25/2006 - Residents, County Officials Join Forces To Have Bemus Point-Stow Boat Ready By Early Next MonthBy PATRICK L. FANELLI

Municipal officials on both sides of the lake hope to see the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry operating by the Fourth of July.Now that the Chautauqua Lake Historic Vessels Company has made it clear they are no longer interested in operating the ferry, concerned residents and county officials have joined forces to see that it happens.‘‘There are other people who want to take over that responsibility,’’ said Jim Loutzenhiser, Historic Vessels Company board of directors president. ‘‘Now that we’ve got a whole bunch of people from Stow and Ellery and the county involved ... they’ve chosen their baby, I’ve chosen mine.’’His ‘‘baby’’ is the Chautauqua Belle, the steamship currently drydocked in Mayville, which — like the ferry — has been out of commission. Loutzenhiser said he and other board members are ‘‘brain-storming’’ ways to get it back into operation.That leaves the fate of the ferry in the hands of municipal officials from North Harmony, Bemus Point, Ellery and Chautauqua County, as well as residents who don’t want to see it permanently out of commission after such a long and proud history.‘‘What we needed to do was figure out if there was enough interest and commitment to get it running. The interest was there,’’ said County Executive Greg Edwards. ‘‘It appears we’re going to be able to get the job done.’’According to Edwards, the issue was brought to his attention by legislators Richard Babbage, R-District 17; Frank Jay Gould, R-District 19 and Fred Croscut, R-District 20, who asked him to investigate the matter.Since then, Edwards has been brain-storming with all interested parties on a way to get the ferry up and running and establish a new group to oversee its operation.The goal of finding a new operating entity is still in the early stages of consideration. Both Edwards and Bryan Dahlberg, Bemus Point mayor, seemed to agree taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fit the bill, whether through local or county government. However, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a municipal presence on any board or commission, public or private, assigned to simply oversee the ferry’s operation.All parties are moving on the goal of getting the ferry running again, though. According to Edwards, Dick Davies, county insurance director, is obtaining bids for the insurance needed for the ferry to operate.Residents, such as John Cheney — who used to help run the ferry in the old days — have come forward to assist with the ‘‘nuts and bolts’’ aspect of getting it up and running.‘‘I know some volunteers have been working on the ferry doing some maintenance work,’’ Dahlberg said. ‘‘(John Cheney) has been working really hard doing the mechanics, getting the nuts and bolts done.’’Cheney reports the ferry is in good shape, and even got it inspected, though he doesn’t expect to hear anything more for a few days at least.Assuming the ferry passes its inspection and adequate insurance is available, the only obstacle left seems to be finding a way to pay for it — which, according to Dahlberg, might prove to be a ‘‘stumbling block,’’ though he has faith that the community will lend a hand.‘‘So many people who we’ve talked to who’ve rode that thing across the lake as kids would help get that thing going,’’ he said.Edwards is also ‘‘cautiously optimistic’’ the public will come forward with its support.‘‘The good news is it looks like it’s going in that direction,’’ he said about the overall prospects of seeing the ferry operate like it used to. ‘‘It fits very well with our focus to give people an experience when they come to Chautauqua County."

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