Oldest Mackinac Ferry Service Could Be Out

Apr 21, 2014

Mackinac Island officials have not heard whether this boat and others owner by Arnold Transit will run this summer.
Credit Peter Payette

UPDATE: Tuesday April 22nd, 9:00 AM

The president of Arnold Transit Company says boats will be ready to run to Mackinac Island when the ice breaks.

Brent Rippe acknowledged the company is having some financial difficulties and says the situation is “fluid.”

On Monday, the Mayor of Mackinac Island, Margaret Doud, said Arnold had missed a deadline to declare whether it would operate this season. Rippe says he spoke with a representative of the mayor over the weekend, stating the company’s intention to operate.

Rippe would not comment on whether electric service to the dock and ferry terminal had been cut off.

He also had no comment about whether Arnold had secured an easement for passengers to cross property between the dock and Main Street. Arnold sold that piece of land to a developer recently and must pay to keep passageway open for people and horses.

Monday April 21st

The oldest ferry service to Mackinac Island could be shutting down. Arnold Transit Company has not responded to the island’s request to declare whether it will operate this year.

Arnold has been running boats to Mackinac Island since 1878, before the Grand Hotel was built. Island officials asked the company to declare by noon on Monday whether it would operate again this summer. There was no response as of 5:00 pm.

If you call Arnold’s main number to book a ticket, you hear an automated voice say, “Service has been temporarily suspended. Please check this message again later for updates.”

Arnold’s problems came into public view last month when the lot between its dock and Main Street was temporarily blockaded. Arnold sold that piece of property, used by ferry passengers to disembark, to developer Ira Green. The ferry company is supposed to pay Green to keep it open so people and horses can continue to pass back and forth to the pier. 

When asked Monday how the ferry company was doing, Green replied, “not so well.” The president of Arnold, Brent Rippe, could not be reached for comment.

Arnold Transit was purchased in 2010 by an attorney from Petoskey named Jim Wynn. Wynn generated lots of controversy when he tried to get exclusive rights to service the island, which would have shut down Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry.

Earlier this month, Arnold Line announced Wynn was no longer president, and said he would not be “involved at Arnold in any way”.

Ice in the Straits of Mackinac is preventing any boats from getting to the island. Planes were running constantly out of St. Ignace Monday, to make up for the absence of boat service.

The Grand Hotel opens this weekend and other hotels are expected to do the same over the next two weeks.

Even with Arnold’s fate unknown, the head of the Mackinac Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tim Hygh, is not worried about the prospects for ferry service to the island.

“We do know that there is all the capacity, with the other two boat companies, to bring all the people that we want to Mackinac Island this summer,” Hygh says.