For 20 years, Jono Billings has been running the lone scheduled ferry from New Bedford to the small island of Cuttyhunk. 

The ferry runs out of a small spot on the Whaling City’s state pier, shepherding thousands of passengers, hauling freight and keeping the island’s connection to the mainland afloat. 

But his time on the pier could be running out. 

MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency focused on stimulating economic growth in the state, put out a request for proposals for the different parcels on the state pier, an 8-acre area that has been eyed by developers for restaurants, retail shops and the state’s burgeoning offshore wind energy industry. 

The Cuttyhunk Ferry Company is one of the parcels up for grabs in the bidding process. In an attempt to ensure its lease is renewed, the Gosnold select board voted Saturday to band together with Mr. Billings, as well as the conservation nonprofit Buzzards Bay Coalition, on the lease application. Town officials hope it will impress upon MassDevelopment just how critical it is for the ferry to maintain its foothold on the New Bedford pier.

Mr. Billings and select board member Gail Blout declined to comment on the application, saying the request for proposals process doesn’t allow respondents to talk to the media. Mark Rasmussen, the president of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, did not return a request for comment. 

Cuttyhunk is one of several islands that make up the town of Gosnold. It sits just north of the Vineyard, acting as the demarcation line between Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay. Part of Dukes County, the island has little in common with the rest of the county.

Though it can swell to several hundred people in the summer, Cuttyhunk has only about a dozen year-round residents. The one-room schoolhouse is currently devoid of full-time students and its small roads are usually driven over by golf carts, not cars. The island, just under a square mile, has a couple of places for renters to stay, an oyster bar, a pizza place and a small market, none of which are open in the off-season. 

In the winter, the ferry runs on Sunday, Monday, Friday and Saturday. Mr. Billings ferries the mail, groceries and other essentials from the mainland. 

Anything that doesn’t make its way via barge, goes across the ferry. 

“As a year-round resident of Cuttyhunk, I rely on the Cuttyhunk Ferry to transport my groceries, other goods, my mail and myself when needed to travel to/from the mainland,” Michelle Carvalho, a teacher at the school and the head of the Cuttyhunk STEAM Academy wrote in a letter of support. “The small year-round population would be especially devastated by any changes in access to the Cuttyhunk Ferry service and may result in more residents moving off the island.” 

With no students at the school, the academy welcomes science-based field trips from nearby schools. If there were no ferry, the academy would also lose its connection to its mainland partners, Ms. Carvalho said. More than 500 students and staff from New Bedford schools came for trips in the last three years and more are planned for the spring. 

“The Cuttyhunk STEAM Academy heavily relies on the Cuttyhunk Ferry to access mainland resources for its educational field trips, guest lectures, and specialized equipment, and materials,” Ms. Carvalho wrote. 

Proposals to MassDevelopment were due Wednesday and the agency will consider how they benefit the agency, the region and the state. In its RFP, the agency said it is looking for a “vibrant mix of commercial and industrial uses” for the pier that preserve or expand water-dependent uses, including shipping, cargo handling, cold storage and dockage for the city’s famed commercial fishing fleet. 

“Current uses at the pier, including the Cuttyhunk Ferry, will be considered as part of our review,” said Kelsey Schiller, a spokesperson for MassDevelopment. 

Ideas for the rejuvenation of the pier have been tossed around for years. Last year, MassDevelopment picked Taber’s Wharf Partners to develop the pier after a previous request for proposals. 

The conglomerate had envisioned restaurants, a new seafood auction house, retail stores and an operations hub for the offshore wind energy industry, but never mentioned the Cuttyhunk Ferry Company in its plans. 

According to the New Bedford Light, Taber officials later said the ferry company was welcome to stay, but the overall plans were eventually rejected by the state, and the pier was put out to bid again in separate parcels instead of the whole 8-acre swath. 

This is the first time the town and the ferry line have joined forces in the application to MassDevelopment. The Gazette was unable to determine whether anyone else submitted a proposal for the lease and there will not be a public opening of bids, according to the request for proposals. Awards are expected to be made in March or April. The Buzzards Bay Coalition, which is based in New Bedford, has a strong interest in Cuttyhunk, having helped preserve hundreds of acres on the island. 

If the ferry cannot stay at its current location, it’s not clear where else Mr. Billings could go. There are few places that are close enough to Cuttyhunk, have space for customer parking and have a crane that could move freight. 

Without a ferry, a water taxi from New Bedford would be the only remaining service to Cuttyhunk, a situation Islanders said would be untenable.

“I urge all stakeholders to support the Cuttyhunk Ferry proposal and work together towards a brighter future for Cuttyhunk Island,” Ms. Carvalho wrote.