Ferry Service Between Charlotte and Essex, N.Y., to Be Suspended | Off Message

Ferry Service Between Charlotte and Essex, N.Y., to Be Suspended


Aboard a Lake Champlain Transportation ferry - FILE: GLENN RUSSELL
  • File: Glenn Russell
  • Aboard a Lake Champlain Transportation ferry
Lake Champlain Transportation will suspend service between Charlotte and Essex, N.Y., at the end of the day Thursday.

Service at the crossing between Grand Isle and Cumberland Head, N.Y., is scheduled to continue.

The Burlington-based company announced the decision on its website Wednesday, saying traffic at both crossings was down due to the COVID-19 threat and said it wanted to preserve at least one route.

"Our highest priority is to continue ferry service between Vermont and New York. With the traffic significantly reduced at both crossings, it is necessary to mobilize all of our resources to sustain service at the Grand Isle/Cumberland Head Crossing," the statement said.

The announcement said the suspension was temporary and would continue until further notice: "We recognize that this is not an ideal situation, however, these are highly unusual times."

Some riders of the Charlotte-Essex route immediately questioned the decision and said the loss of the link between Vermont and New York on the southern end of  Lake Champlain could isolate people who need health care and other services.

Sally Smith of Westport, N.Y., rides regularly to visit her 89-year-old mother in Shelburne. The 45-minute trip will turn into a 90-minute trip when the ferry stops and she takes the next best route — the Lake Champlain Bridge between Crown Point, N.Y., and Chimney Point, Vt.

Many people also use the ferry for medical appointments at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, she said.

Smith urged the company to at least continue with limited service on the route and argued the ferry is similar to vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

"They should do something to help us. Just leaving us in the lurch when we have supported their business for decades just seems really, really heartless," she told Seven Days.

Former Wall Street deal-maker turned farmer Sandy Lewis of Essex, N.Y. sent Lake Champlain Transportation owner Trey Pecor an email asking him to restore service.

"You are a wealthy man. You provide a licensed public service that is licensed for a reason. The public you serve matters. This is a crisis. Lives are at risk. Daily," Lewis wrote in an email shared with Seven Days.

Pecor did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday night. The Lake Champlain Ferries website stated: "This is a fluid situation and we will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available."