By Donna Thornton/News Editor
The Hokes Bluff Ferry pulled out of Gadsden, loaded on trailer for night-time trip to Monroeville around 9 p.m. March 26, much to the relief of Etowah County officials.
Etowah County Engineer Tim Graves told members of the county commission in their meeting last week that county employees and contractors taking the ferry to Monroe County “spent a long, cold, windy day Monday (March 25),” trying to get the ferry road-ready for Monday night. However, they were able to get the boat out of the water, but not on the road by 10 p.m. Monday.
At approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday, and entourage of law enforcement vehicles, representatives of Rhett Butler Trucking and the trailer bearing the ferry pulled out of the parking areas by the boat ramp under the interstate bridge and made their way onto the highway headed south.
They planned to take the ferry to its manfacturer’s in Wetumpka to have some repairs done, a representative of the trucking company said, then go by water on to Monroe County.
Graves said getting permits from the U.S. Department of Transportation to take the ferry south by road was no easy task. He said U.S. Rep. Robert Adherholt’s office helped to get approval to take the 20-foot wide, 60-foot long craft on a trailer via road, but it had to be transported at night.
“If we’d not gotten the permits we would have had to take it to Guntersville and do about a four-week float around,” Graves said, to get the ferry to it’s new home.
Hokes Bluff had a ferry for ages that took cars and passengers from Hokes Bluff to Tidmore Bend. A new ferry was built – funded by federal dollars – and delivered to Hokes Bluff in 2007. But the ferry proved too costly for the county to continue to operate it, and after a couple of years it was declared surplus property.
However, if the county had tried to sell the ferry, the commission would have had to pay back the federal funds for its construction.