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Merv Hardie moved
Ferry replaced by Deh Cho Bridge relocated up shore to keep it away from partying mushroom pickers: former deckhand

Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Saturday, August 22, 2015

Trespassers and vandals have prompted the move of the historic Merv Hardie Ferry a few kilometers up shore from its perch next to the Deh Cho Bridge.

NNSL photo/graphic

The shore next to the Deh Cho Bridge is no longer the resting place of the Merv Hardie Ferry, that was decommissioned at the completion of the bridge project, due to trespassers climbing aboard the unsecured vessel. - Elaine Anselmi/NNSL photo

"People, like mushroom pickers and that, they were breaking into it and partying in it," said Gina Mikula, owner of Captain's Cabins and Bridge-Less Lodgings, just up the shore of the Mackenzie River from where the ferry once sat. Mikula worked as a deck-hand on the ferry, while her husband John was the captain.

Over the years, and particularly in the last few months, Mikula said they have seen numerous people clambering aboard the empty ferry that was hauled up on the shore next to the bridge. She had heard that the doors to the boat had been left unlocked.

The Merv Hardie once shuttled travellers across the Mackenzie River, connecting Highway 3 at Fort Providence, before the bridge was completed, and was taken out of commission in November 2012 with the completion of the Deh Cho Bridge.

Back in 2013 Mikula said she met hitchhikers on the highway who said they had slept the night in the ferry - although this didn't raise too much of a concern at the time, she said. This year, with an influx of transient workers passing through the area to pick morel mushrooms, that concern heightened.

"We saw people parked there, people partying up there - young kids, when the mushroom season was going on," said Mikula. "It appeared (the Department of Transportation) had left safety equipment on there - fire hoses and that were strung out across the deck."

Mikula and her husband reported the vandalism and trespassing to road crews with the Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the vessel.

Although seeing the ferry alongside the bridge was always saddening for Mikula - a reminder of the job on board that she loved - she said seeing it abused was worse.

"That's why we reported it seriously then to the road crew," said Mikula.

"We had just mentioned it in passing before."

She hopes to see the boat back on the water and put to use.

"It's just a waste, isn't it?" she said.

The boat has sat idle since being taken out of service, and Mikula said few repairs were done in its last few years of service, since the bridge was being built. Prior to that, she said it was tuned up every two years.

"It's such a waste for it to be sitting there, wasting away. We hope they'll do something," said Mikula.

"It's a good, solid old boat, we crashed through ice on that boat."

The Department of Transportation did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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