A ferry service to Sandy Island in Georgetown County is not likely unless local authorities help fund it, according to Coast RTA officials who met with the island’s residents Saturday.
“The truth is we are still working on it,” said Felicia Beaty, with the Coast. “I cannot tell you it will be successful.”
Two dozen of the island’s approximately 100 residents came to a deck in front of Pyatt’s General Store Saturday afternoon to hear an update on the ferry project. They said the news from the area’s only public transit service wasn’t expected.
“We had our hopes built up today, the community of Sandy Island. We was expecting good news,” said island resident Rev. George Weathers. “The way I’m looking at it now we are back to square one ... and it don’t look good for the ferry service to Sandy Island.”
Beaty outlined a history of Coast RTA’s attempts to solve the decades-long transportation problem the residents of the island have: many must travel nearly a mile to the mainland for work or school, groceries and doctor’s appointments.
Interest in a ferry service was renewed in 2009 when three people died during a storm on the way home to the island.
Past efforts by Coast, which included plans to acquire the Hokes Bluff Ferry from Alabama, ended when the bus service wasn’t able to match grant monies.
Currently, Beaty said Coast needs $60,000 to match a grant for a 35-foot, 26-passenger pontoon boat that meets standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She told residents Saturday that if funding for the pontoon boat isn’t secured, “it will probably be the end of (Coast’s) journey.”
Sarah Deas, who at 71 is retired, said she is disappointed that there wasn’t good news at the meeting, but said she still has hope.
“Getting in and out of those small boats is kind of getting to me,” she said. “A ferry would be good for me and my momma who is almost 100 years old. My brother is handicapped and he has a time getting in that boat. It would be very convenient for all of us.”
Deas, who spent her whole life on the island, said she makes the trip about three times a week.
Often, transport falls on Charles Pyatt, who has a pontoon that seats about 16 people. Retired from the army and the United States Postal Service, he said he doesn’t charge his elderly neighbors who need help getting to the mainland for doctor’s appointments.
“We’re still hoping and praying we can get something better,” Pyatt said. “We could even work with an 18-passenger boat. Something needs to happen.”
Beaty said Coast plans to evaluate information residents provided in a survey Saturday and approach Georgetown County Council about funds to match the grant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the pontoon boat.