Ferry back in business on Sunday
After an almost six-week absence, the St. Johns River Ferry is set to return Sunday.
The link between Mayport Village and Heckscher Drive on the Northside has been out of service since early December for an inspection and maintenance.
The ferry was planned to be back in service by the end of December, but delays from subcontractors pushed the return date back about two weeks.
In a way to encourage riders to come back — or lure new riders to give it a try — Sunday's return is planned to have a celebratory atmosphere, with games, food trucks, giveaways and no fares for the entire day.
The St. Johns River Ferry Commission in a special meeting Thursday approved giving away 20 round-trip tickets and one annual pass as raffle prizes.
"The bigger splash that we can make … the more it's going to help us," said commission member Elaine Brown.
City Council member John Crescimbeni, commission chair, said the day should be "something out of the ordinary" to attract attention to the service being back.
Expected volume for Sunday is projected at 250 cars, but Crescimbeni said he hoped the event could attract at least 100 more.
Brown described how the ferry's inactive status has left area businesses around the service "hurting."
Crescimbeni said he heard reports of some businesses having "significant reduction in revenue."
"A lot of the businesses in the proximity of Fort George and Mayport Landing are dependent on traffic crossing the river," he said. "Their businesses have taken a hit … because that traffic isn't there."
It's a possibility the service could open before Sunday, but plans are for the service to conduct its first Sunday run at 7 a.m.
The "Welcome Back" event starts at noon and will include music, games, food and crafts.