Can the Canby Ferry Be Saved? Commissioners Hear Ideas as Decision Looms

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners was in town Tuesday night to hear comments and ideas from local residents about possible ways to preserve a piece of Canby history.

After over a century of transporting residents across the Willamette River, first on horseback and later on automobile, the Canby Ferry’s future is suddenly very uncertain. The problem is that it’s too expensive, costing an estimated $400,000 more than it brings in each year,  at a time when commissioners are already considering a vehicle registration fee to raise money for transportation funding, and it serves too few county residents — less than 200 per day.

While many have pointed out that no other county roads or river crossings are expected to generate revenue or “pay for themselves,” Clackamas County Assistant Director of Transportation Mike Bezner says the issue with the ferry is that its cost is so disproportionate, especially considering the short length that it travels and the number of folks who use it.

Though support for the ferry was high, many of those who spoke at the meeting at Canby Foursquare Church echoed the comments of West Linn resident Fred Goeth. They believe the county should look for ways to save money and run the ferry more efficiently, but if it’s ultimately a losing proposition, they don’t believe nostalgia should be subsidized to the tune of $400,000 or more a year.

Commissioners were there primarily to listen and answer questions, not share their own views. That will come later. However, near the end of the meeting, Commissioner Sonya Fisher shared how much she appreciated the residents’ participation. The feasibility study has seen very well-attended meetings and lively discussion throughout the year-long process.

The input from Tuesday’s meeting, as well as written comments that can still be submitted to the county by mail or email, will be incorporated into a staff report that will be presented to commissioners in early.

A policy session to discuss the Canby Ferry and possibly determine its fate will be held at 1:30 March 12 at the county Public Services Building in Oregon City. No comment will be taken that day, but the meeting is open to the public.

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