Harsens Island ferry back in service, residents say

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

The Harsens Island ferry successfully delivered its first group of residents to and from the island on Monday evening, ending a frustrating round of travel for inhabitants.

Maureen Boury was among the first passengers aboard the Champion's Auto Ferryat around 6 p.m., but her frustration remains about the six-day ordeal after a dock collapse forced residents to change traveling to and from the island.

“I actually was concerned about safety because it is not the first time the ferry failed, and it’s not well maintained, so I was a little nervous,” she said. “We put our lives in his hands every day.”

Being out of commission for so long, she said, also was inconvenient.

“We were able to get on and off the island by foot, but I live 10 miles away from where we’re let off, so I had to stay on the mainland with family,” said Boury, who has lived on the island for 15 years. “They don’t provide transportation and I couldn’t walk the 10 miles home.”

Even getting groceries was an issue.

Tom Zlotek, who has lived on the island part time for 15 years and full time for 4 years, also was among the first passengers on the ferry Monday evening.

“I haven’t been able to leave the house for six days to get groceries,” he said. “We’ve got a party store on the island if you need basics like milk. But the grocery story on the mainland is at least a mile away, so it’s not like  you can load up on groceries because it would be too far to walk.”

He added, “You kind of feel like you’re on a tether.” 

Margie Baldwin didn't appreciate the delays caused by the transportation issues. 

"They had a little passenger boat and you just stood in line," she said. "If you had a car on the island, you had to find somebody to drive you home."

Temporarily, the service will be for passenger cars and personal trucks without a load or trailer. Commercial trucks and personal trucks towing trailers or loads must wait two more days, according to the service.

The winter schedule for the ferry is 6 a.m. to midnight. Service is every 15 minutes on the hour and from midnight to 6 a.m. every 20 minutes on the hour. 

Crews have been working to repair a damaged dock, officials said. The island is at the mouth of the St. Clair River in St. Clair County.

Police said the problem began when workers were repairing an unidentified issue with the dock Wednesday when they struck a power line, which fell. It landed on top of a pickup truck near the St. Clair River.

The damage to the dock reinforced the idea held by some that they have few travel options living on the island, Baldwin said. She worries about future issues with the ferry and the rise in ferry ticket prices.

"We'd rather have a bridge," she said.