A Jetty Island ferry captain waits for passengers to board as the boat begins operations for the summer on July 6, 2016, in Everett. It won’t operate this year after the City of Everett canceled it because of public health concerns and budget cuts. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

A Jetty Island ferry captain waits for passengers to board as the boat begins operations for the summer on July 6, 2016, in Everett. It won’t operate this year after the City of Everett canceled it because of public health concerns and budget cuts. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Jetty Island ferry service canceled, another COVID casualty

People can still luxuriate on the sandy strip off Everett’s shores, just pack out what you bring.

EVERETT — Anyone looking at Jetty Island as a summer respite this year will need their own transportation.

The City of Everett canceled passenger ferry service that seasonally hauls between 30,000 and 35,000 people to the strip of sand a stone’s throw from the mainland.

“Jetty (service) will just have to be canceled,” city spokesperson Julio Cortes said. “The reason why is COVID-19.”

Public health concerns and safety protocols related to social distancing and sanitizing made the ferry rides untenable, he said. The summer hallmark called Jetty Island Days has existed in some form since 1985.

Ferry crews would have been required to sanitize high-use areas after every trip and increase distance between people, effectively cutting in half the capacity to about 30 passengers, Cortes said.

Ashley Nash of Everett said it was a shame to not ride the ferry this year.

“My husband has never been,” she said. “I was thinking about taking a day trip. Ah well. Next year.”

The two-mile isle popular for shallow, warm water on the west side remains open to the public, if they can get there. It’s a short paddle across by canoe, kayak, paddle board or row boat, or even faster with a motor, from the Port of Everett marina. Parking there costs $3.

Once on Jetty Island, there’s a lot of room to explore, including trails. But there won’t be access to the restrooms and there are no trash bins, so whatever gets packed in should be packed out. Also, not to further harsh anyone’s mellow, alcohol and cannabis are not allowed because it’s a public park.

Similar to previous years, there are no lifeguards. Unlike previous years, the city won’t have a park ranger on the island.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber said in an email. The port co-owns the property with Everett and Snohomish County. “Jetty Island is a treasure for our community, and only being accessible by boat or personal watercraft, the Jetty Island Days program is the only way most residents can experience its beauty. In these hard times, everyone is making sacrifices, and the port is doing everything we can to support economic recovery to restore the tax base at the city to support these wonderful public access programs, like Jetty Island Days, into the future.”

Seattle-based Argosy Cruises operates the ferry between July 5 and Labor Day on a contract with the city for $109,000 each summer. The 10-year contract, initially approved in 2018, was extended a year.

“By funding Jetty Island Days we give all of our residents who may not be able to access the island an opportunity to do so and not only enjoy the two miles of warm sandy beach with family and friends but also learn about the wildlife and history of the island by the guided nature walks and classes,” Cortes said.

Passengers are asked to donate $2 for adults and $1 for children toward the ferry service. Since 2007, the highest total brought in was $19,744.89 in 2014, when 39,777 passengers hopped aboard.

Mayor Cassie Franklin asked that future Jetty Island funding come from the lodging tax fund instead of the general fund out of the parks budget. The island is a highlight in promotional and tourism marketing by the city, Cortes said.

“It was starting to be successful,” he said.

Riders have fluctuated over the past 13 years, from a low of 27,271 in 2007 to a peak of 46,549 in 2012.

The number of days ferry service operated shifted slightly over that period, usually in the high-50s to low-60s.

Since the passenger peak between 2009 and 2013, numbers steadily declined even as the service operated a similar number of days. The past few summers were marred by wildfire smoke, which made outdoor recreation less than ideal.

With the city facing steep revenue losses because of the coronavirus’ economic effects, Jetty Island Days aren’t certain to resume next year.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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