People living on Sandy Island are still working to fulfill their dream of a ferry.
Residents of Sandy Island gathered on the island Dec. 16 for a community meeting and the Volunteer Firefighters’ Christmas drop-in.
The meeting began with a celebration of the Christmas season with the traditional Christmas carol “Joy to the World.”
Dinner was served and then Charles Pyatt, chief executive officer of the Sandy Island Project, introduced the proposal for grant funding for transportation for the citizens of Sandy Island.
He stressed the importance of coming together to raise funds for a ferry to transport residents across the Waccamaw River.
“We decided that we want to do something for ourselves and control our destiny,” said Pyatt.
“It’s a challenge for our senior citizens to continue to provide their own transportation.”
Many of the Sandy Island senior citizens have to climb into their boats daily, many times alone, to cross the Waccamaw River for doctor appointments and other activities, he said.
As the meeting Pyatt not- ed that the project now has its 501 (c)3 non-profit status and has already raised about $23,000.
“We need better means of transportation for the people,” Pyatt said.
“Anything over 25 feet must have special operations and we’re trying to stay out of special operations. We’re trying to work to meet everyone’s needs on the island.”
Bill Murray, the finance
director of the project, also spoke at the meeting.
“We now have $2,000 left in the Sandy Island Memorial Fund,” Murray said.
Rev. George Weathers, a retired pastor of Chester Hill Baptist Church and a native of Sandy Island, talked about his battles deal- ing with the county and his dreams of wanting a ferry for the people of Sandy Island.
“I’ve seen a lot of things happen on the island,” Weathers said.
“I fought County Council to get the fire station built. They gave us a 300-gallon truck. Prior to that we use to go to the river to get our water if there was a fire. I remember when the state
brought in an old ferry and kept it on the waterfront for over 20 years and it was nev- er used. The Coast Guard condemned it and sold it to salvage. Since then there have been several tragedies. We have been fighting and fighting, trying to get some means of transportation and all we get is promises.”
He added that he was told by someone from the county that “we choose to live here and we have to suffer the consequences.
“Now we are trying to come together again,” Weathers said.
In 2009, a boating acci- dent near Sandy Island took the lives of Shaquatia Robin- son, 19, Lou Ann Robinson, 47, and Rishard Pyatt, 18.
In 2011, the Etowah County Ferry was donated to Sandy Island from Alabama.
However, the Coast RTA felt that the expenses were too much of a risk.
Bringing the boat here and retrofitting the boat landings on either side of the Waccamaw River was estimated to cost about $300,000.
In a letter to Etowah County, Coast RTA director Myers Rollins stated, “While it was a difficult decision, after careful analysis it was determined that acceptance of the vessel created too great of a business risk.”
A resolution passed by the Coast RTA board of directors stated that the uncertainty of U.S Coast Guard certification of the vessel was also an issue.
But the challenges that the Sandy Island project has faced in the past have not dampened the dreams of getting a ferry.
By Rounette Johnson
For The Times
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