City of Canby Not Looking to Get into the Ferry Business

A revealing discussion was had by Canby City councilors at their meeting last week regarding the fate of the Canby Ferry. Though the decision of what to do with the beloved but inefficient and financially challenged ferry will ultimately be made by the Clackamas County Board of commissioners, the city’s discussion was reflective of the bleak prospects facing those who would like to see ferry service continue.

The county currently subsidizes the ferry to the tune of $400,000 a year, and commissioners are looking for ways to zero out that deficit, either through raised fees or reduced costs. If that’s not possible, they want out of the ferry business altogether.

Mayor Brian Hodson says the city of Canby, perhaps in conjunction with other stakeholders like the cities of Wilsonville and West Linn, could assume ferry operations if they wish.

But $400,000 would represent a sizable portion of the city’s annual operating budget, especially for a transportation mechanism that serves only about 200 people a day.

There are options available, and though none are surefire solutions, Councilor Shawn Varwig suggested that the powers that be explore a solution that progressed in multiple phases.

The councilors shared their various experiences with the ferry. Some take it all the time; some almost never do. Council President Tim Dale is more attached than most. He said one of the previous incarnations of the Canby Ferry was built by his great uncle in the 1940s. Still, even he admitted the writing is sort of on the wall.

The council ultimately felt the county should pursue other ways to cut costs (such as only running the ferry during peak hours) or increase revenue (such as accepting credit cards or raising fees) before giving up on the old boat.

The public will have their chance to weigh in before commissioners at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at Canby Foursquare Church.

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