Cyclists, rejoice: The Colchester Causeway has reopened for the season, and the bike ferry that transports riders from it to the Champlain Islands will soon follow suit.
The bike ferry, operated by Burlington nonprofit Local Motion, will resume operations on August 12, following the causeway's unexpected reopening earlier this week. The 20-passenger boat transports cyclists across the 200-foot cut in the four-mile causeway and connects riders to South Hero.
A severe windstorm in May 2018 washed away portions of the causeway, requiring $1.8 million in repairs. The coronavirus pandemic pushed the expected reopening from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, but the contractor finished the job on July 30, more than a month ahead of schedule.
"If the causeway is open, there's no reason the ferry shouldn't be running," Local Motion services and marketing director Tom Clark said. "We're committed to the recreational biking public out there, and we wanted to run the boat."
The ferry will operate a bit differently this year. To comply with physical distancing protocols, the boat will only transport 10 passengers per trip, all of whom will be required to wear face masks. Staff will clean high-touch surfaces throughout the day, and cyclists will be asked to load their own bikes onto the boat.
Courtesy of Local Motion
Children wait on the ferry dock
"If people need assistance, obviously we'll step in and help them, but the fewer times we can be touching surfaces, it's best for everybody," Clark said.
Ferry operators also won't collect money or make change on board. Instead, they'll ask passengers to leave a donation in a designated receptacle; $8 is suggested for a round trip, which is the usual ticket price. It costs $200,000 to operate the ferry 100 days a year.
Ferry rides will be offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, August 12 through September 7. Fall rides will begin September 11 and be available Friday through Sunday until October 18.
The service typically attracts 16,000 passengers every season.
"There's a lot of businesses up in South Hero that are dependent on the bike traffic that comes up through there — people eating lunch and buying creemees," Clark said. "We're just really that happy it's going to reopen as soon as it is."