The Balfour ferry landing isn't going anywhere anytime soon

COLUMN: Moving Balfour terminal mostly a fairy tale

The government’s reluctance to provide many details about the future of the Balfour ferry terminal resulted in much unnecessary speculation.

The Ministry of Transportation’s reluctance to provide many details about the possibility of relocating the Balfour ferry terminal resulted in much unnecessary speculation this week.

It fell to MLA Michelle Mungall to downplay the story, explaining that with expensive upgrades planned to the dock, the ministry was simply making sure the ferry landing’s location still made sense.

Moving the terminal is barely an idea much less a reality, but in the absence of much concrete information, Facebook posts ran wild, many blasting the ministry for its supposed foolishness. It could have been avoided with a more fulsome explanation at the outset.

The news, such as it was, did make me wonder about the MV Balfour, which turned 60 this year without any fanfare. It’s now the longest serving ship in Kootenay Lake’s history, even longer than the 58 years the SS Moyie put in. (It won’t be until next year that the Moyie has been out of service as long as it was in service. Now moored at Kaslo, it’s West Kootenay’s greatest artifact.)

Is the Balfour due for retirement and/or replacement? Mungall said as far as she knows, it’s still in fine shape, helped in part by its limited summer workouts.

Still, the day will come when a decision will have to be made about running two ferries. Will the Balfour be replaced with another vessel or will the Osprey 2000 be expected handle summer traffic on its own? That might be one argument in favour of a new terminal with a shorter crossing time.

However, it would be an uphill fight. While the ministry hasn’t publicly stated Queens Bay is the preferred location for a new ferry terminal, I’m sure Queens Bay residents wouldn’t want it, and most Balfour residents — and businesses — wouldn’t want to lose it.

CROSSING TIMES: Even if a new terminal shaved a few minutes off the Kootenay Lake ferry’s 35-minute sailing, its status as the world’s longest free ferry ride probably wouldn’t be in doubt.

That’s a title the Nelson Chamber of Commerce came up with in 1963 when tolls were lifted following the opening of the Kootenay Pass.

What’s the world’s second-longest free ferry ride? You don’t have to look far: the Upper Arrow Lake ferry takes 25 minutes. (A new vessel was recently launched on that route but did not change the crossing time.) The Staten Island ferry in New York, free since 1997, also takes about 25 minutes.

TOAD MOUNTAIN MEMORIES: I recently wrote about the Morice family of Toad Mountain, who ran an hotel there in the days of the Silver King mine, and whose son Fred was born there.

Linda Morice, who provided the family photo that appeared with the column (seen again at left), has since informed me that David Morice’s niece was Lottie Fetterley, who with husband Burnie was very involved with the Nelson museum. They lived here from 1929 until her death in 1990.

Lottie, a native of Durham, Ont., wasn’t born until 1905, three years after David’s passing, and may not have known her uncle was a Nelson-area pioneer. Alan Ramsden, who knew the Fetterleys well, said she never mentioned it.

Ramsden first visited the Silver King in 1938 or ’39 when many buildings were still standing. Just before the war, the company that owned the claims stopped paying a caretaker to shovel snow off the roofs and gave up its lease to Consolidated Mining and Smelting.

Ramsden recalls two or three very large wooden buildings, but can’t say if one might have been the Morice hotel. “Some had signs of built-in bunks on one side and big but not fancy tables,” he says. “We stayed overnight while skiing up there. Several buildings were quite safe to be in.”

However, a heavy snow year in the 1940s spelled the end of them. When things started to collapse, Burnie Fetterley salvaged an assayer’s scale that is now in the permanent exhibit at Touchstones.

Touchstones also has a virtual exhibit devoted to the Silver King.

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