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Ft. Pickens Ferry Closer To Reality

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Gulf Islands National Seashore
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Residents and visitors could enjoy taking a ferry to downtown Pensacola, Fort Pickens and Quietwater Beach as early as next March, if everything stays on schedule.

Dan Brown is Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore. He said, "we've got a lot of moving parts on this and we're communicating with our partners on a regular basis, staying on track so far, and we're excited"

 

The Escambia County Commission last week awarded a design contract for the Quietwater Beach ferry landing, with February the scheduled completion date. Work is continuing by the City of Pensacola, according the Dan Brown.

"The city is a little bit concerned about their ability to get their land side facilities, they prioritized their water-side facilities because the boats will be delivered that first week of February so the city is pretty confident that the docks will be in place so the boats will have a place to berth."

Much of the ferry project is being paid by funds from the BP oil spill. Four million dollars from the lawsuit went to the National Park Service for purchase of the two ferries, and Brown says both the city and county have received funds through FLAP: the Federal Lands Access Program.

"The city was successful in getting about $2 million to get both their dock facilities and their land-side facilities. The county also applied for funding and they got the first phase, about $800,000 and that is to construct an extension to the current pier out at Quietwater Beach."

The two ferries under construction in Bellingham, Washington are projected to carry about 60,000 passengers annually to and from Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens. 

"The Coast Guard Subchapter T boats are aluminum, catamaran, two-deck, the lower deck is climate controlled, the upper deck has a roof over it so it's shaded, snack bar on board, restrooms, and so forth."

Brown says the 150-foot boats are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and will carry passengers and their bicycles only – no motor vehicles allowed. 

"We anticipate, at some point, that the Ft. Pickens road is going to get destroyed again and at some point may not get rebuilit so we're not looking to transport vehicles over to the island."

The vessels will operate simultaneously in the triangular route. Travel time will be 35-45 minutes at an average speed of 12 knots – or about 14 miles an hour. And there’s already been some discussion about fares with a consultant who studied ferry rates along the Eastern Seaboard. But Brown says there’s nothing set in stone just yet.

“They came up with a range of ticket prices,” said Brown. “Sixteen dollars on the low end for adults, $22 on the high end. We anticipate they will be somewhere in the middle of that. And they’ll have group rates, children’s rates, senior and veterans’ rates and so forth.”

Other work underway includes drawing up the concessions contract, which GINS’ Dan Brown says will be awarded to a private firm under the National Parks Service umbrella.

And the two ferries already are named. Fourth-graders at Brentwood and Cordova Park Elementary Schools held a contest, and the winning names are “Turtle Runner,” and “Pelican Perch.”