Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) announced he has secured $500,000 in 2008 federal transportation funding for the Chautauqua County to help fund critical repairs and improvements necessary at the Bemus-Stow Ferry facilities.
“The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is a historic local treasure that provides a unique tourism opportunity for visitors, infusing new dollars into the Chautauqua Lake regional economy,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “With this funding we hope to keep the ferry running strong for another 200 years.”
The Bemus-Stow Ferry facilities are in dire need of major repairs and improvements, without which the Ferry would not be able to continue running. The funding, requested by Chautauqua County and secured by Congressman Higgins, will be used to replace the ferry landing and retaining walls, repave all disturbed areas, construct a new public access pier, and implement all necessary safety code standards.
County Executive Greg Edwards said, “The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is one of only a handful of inland ferries still in operation in the United States. Our Ferry has been part of our history for almost 200 years, and is a key component to our future. I am thrilled that in response to our grant application Congressman Higgins secured the money necessary to complete these essential repairs. This investment will ensure that when we celebrate our Ferry's Bi-Centennial we can proclaim that Chautauqua County will be able to enjoy our Ferry for another 200 years.”
The Bemus-Stow Ferry connects Route 430 in Bemus Point to Route 394 in Stow. The Ferry provides transportation to over 6,500 pedestrians, bicyclists and passenger vehicle commuters every year. The Bemus-Stow Ferry is also a major tourist attraction for Chautauqua County.
“The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is one of many great regional assets enjoyed by residents and the thousands of people who visit Chautauqua County each year,” said Chautauqua County Legislature Chairman Keith Ahlstrom. “We are grateful to Congressman Higgins for his efforts to fulfill this County request and his continued commitment to the Chautauqua County region.”
The Ferry, operated by the non-profit organization Sea Lion Project Ltd., recently underwent extensive upgrades, recently passing its 10 year New York State inspection. John Cheney serves as Executive Director for the Sea Lion Project and Paul Stage is the organization’s Presiding Officer. “Some of the upgrades included replacing the main beam and pulley systems that take the ferry back and forth across the lake,” John Cheney said. “The entire hull was re-welded in specific sections, sandblasted inside & out and repainted.”
“The Sea Lion Project would like to thanks the Village of Mayville for allowing the repairs to be done on its lakeside park and we also thank the County and Congressman Higgins for their efforts in helping with the Ferry’s continued operation,” added Paul Stage.
The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry has been in operation since 1811 when William Bemus applied for a license to operate a flat bottom vessel he would use to travel between the properties he owned on either side of Chautauqua Lake. The current barge was built in 1934 and has operated continuously since then.
The Ferry propulsion system was donated by Cummins Inc., which has their main engine plant in Jamestown, New York.
The Ferry runs Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, operates with only volunteers and accepts donations only.