PRESCOTT, ONT. – With negotiations underway to reopen the Canada-U.S. Land border to travelers, businesses on both sides of the border are hoping for good news in the days ahead.
At Riverwalk Park in downtown Prescott, you can see Ogdensburg, New York from across the river, but it’s as close as it gets.
Most residents walking through the park on Wednesday agree it’s time to open the nearby Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge in Johnstown.
âI think it’s about time,â said one woman. “If you can show you’re vaccinated, you should be able to cross.”
“I think we’ve done everything we can to get in a position for this,” said a man inside his truck.
“We are taking social distances, most people get vaccinated, there are a lot of good things happening and I think the fear and worry are over,” he added. “If everyone is doing what they’re doing, I don’t think there’s a problem with the Americans coming back.”
Another man walking his dog agreed reopening shouldn’t be a problem.
âThere is a lot of cross-border traffic and we have been doing it for years. We buy on both sides of the border. We missed it,â he said.
“I’m sure there are a number of people in town who have relatives in Ogdensburg and miss them too,” he added.
Officials from the two countries met on Tuesday to discuss border restrictions, with current rules in place due to expire on June 21.
No immediate action is expected, and it will likely be extended until July.
Many businesses in New York state are poised to welcome Canadians again, after that state lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, including the wearing of masks in commercial businesses and social settings.
âCurrently, our staff are 100 percent vaccinated, both the first and second dose,â said Lou Williams, owner of the Inn at Gran View. “We’re pretty much open as usual. I still have plexiglass at the registration desk and our bar service. But otherwise, we’re treating our guests as usual.”
âWe have a lot of Canadian customers from Ottawa who love to come spend the evening with us,â added Williams. “They are all missed, so it will be very nice to open the border.”
Williams added that the past year had been painful for his wallet at the restaurant.
âFor the year it took 60% success,â he said. “The hotel wasn’t as aggressive as our drop in sales, but, you know, it was about 50 percent.”
âWe’re definitely going in the right direction,â said Williams. “Tourism in New York State has increased. Families, kids, you know, kayaking by the water. We just launched kayaks and paddleboards, so that’s good.”
“I think it is fair and that we have to find what would be a new normal,” he added. “Personally, I think we are safe enough and we have to live our life.”
Just east of the small town of 10,000, Ogdensburg UPS store owner Michael Lira can’t wait to see his Canadian customers again.
âMy business is greatly affected,â said Lira. âI designed my business around Canadian traffic and the need for package service here in Ogdensburg for residents of Ottawa and surrounding areas.
Lira said normally more than 3,000 Canadians would stop in a month to pick up packages, ranging from the size of a ring box to car parts.
âI would love to see them come back,â Lira said. “Everyone notices that the traffic is not there when it was here normally (during the past year).”
Prescott companies, also ready to see their American friends.
âIt would be nice to see American tourists showing up in Canada,â said Kevin Bunce of Rorwarders Antiques. “Just having that foot traffic again would be great. We have the river here, we have the diving.”
âI spoke to a few (Americans), but of course no one can come or vice versa,â Bunce said, adding that some antique collectors south of the border have asked about the items in her. shop.
“It made life a little difficult, but I know a few people want to come.” he said.
While the consensus is mostly a yes to reopening Earth Passages, some believe it is a good idea to wait a little longer.
âI don’t think it should reopen yet, no,â said Tarah, a Prescott resident, out for an afternoon stroll by the water. “I think it’s too early. Cases are only going down, I don’t think it’s time yet.”
“If they don’t reopen the schools, they shouldn’t reopen the bridge,” she added.
Canadian officials say they are taking a cautious approach to lifting the restrictions, with the start of July as the timeline for fully vaccinated citizens to get through.