North Country businesses brace for extended border closure

Published: May. 19, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT
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The U.S.-Canadian border will remain closed to nonessential travel until mid-June. Channel 3's Kelly O'Brien looks at what that means for businesses that rely tourist traffic from the north.

"It's certainly not good news, but on the other hand it wasn't shocking or unexpected," said Garry Douglas with the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh.

For another 30 days, border crossings like the Champlain Port of Entry will remain closed, restricting nonessential travel. Douglas says the Canadian government is reluctant to reopen, worried about COVID-19 cases coming north from America. "They have a great sensitivity at this point to not reopen that connection until they've gotten farther down the road," he said.

The North Country relies on Canadian travelers to spend money here, so businesses fear what the extended closure will mean for their bottom lines.

"We're a huge transient marina, so we've had to really think of how we're going to do stuff," said Larry Carroll with Westport Marina.

The marina only has three boats usually docked from Canadian residents, but it's a one-stop-shop for many other boaters who enter the lake in Quebec. "If I don't have the Canadian boats coming through my transient section of service I provide -- the fuel dock, the repair work and all that -- is going to be way off," Carroll said. He says it's more than just his family marina that will miss the money spent. "Everything is in walking distance, so the Canadians come in, they dine out and they support our town."

Carroll says he's switching his mindset on how to make the best of the situation. That includes getting their restaurant back open to help bring in some extra cash. "I'm done being nervous -- it is what it is," he said.

Douglas says even once the border does open, there is a mental hurdle these businesses will still need to jump over. "Everybody knows across the country, across North America that travelers are not simply going to start traveling the day after they are told they can," he said. That means locals will need to help fill the gap, he added. "Take those first vacations right here in our own backyard, in the Adirondacks or on Lake Champlain. Patronize our local tourism businesses and don't get too far from home."

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