Thursday, June 25, 2009

Last Virginia Pole-driven River Ferry Set to Close July 1st

Last pole-driven river ferry may close in Virginia

SCOTTSVILLE, Va. (AP) — For more than 130 years, ferrymen have jammed poles into the James River's gravelly shallows to push the Hatton Ferry slowly across to other side.

The unique calling now may be days from extinction: America's last known hand-poled ferry is a casualty of ebbing state finances and politics.

On July 1, Virginia stops funding the Hatton Ferry. Unless private donors, nonprofits or local governments find the cash to keep it open, its last crossing is Sunday afternoon, weather permitting.

"The future is your kids, our kids, our grandkids, and when this is gone, it's gone forever," said Ashley Pillar, 30, who grew up around Hatton's ferrymen on the flat-bottomed steel barge. He became its operator in 2002.

The ferry powered by human muscle is a romantic relic and historical anachronism that hasn't been commercially significant in decades.

But amid the unspoiled Blue Ridge foothills that harbor Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate and that inspired television's nostalgic series "The Waltons," the Hatton Ferry is a treasure of the heart, not a balance sheet asset.


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