Champlain Islands region looks forward to border reopening

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 12:28 PM EDT
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SOUTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) - The Canadian border could start reopening to fully vaccinated Americans starting in mid-August.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with leaders of Canada’s provinces Thursday before making the announcement. And the country may welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.

While the announcement comes as welcome news to businesses in the Champlain Islands, some locals and visitors admit it’s been a quieter than usual summer.

A summer with no Canadians in the Champlain Islands is easy to notice. “I think it’s been prevalent,” said Starrlee McGregor of Grand Isle. “It will be nice when they do open the border up.”

“It’s quiet without the Canadians being here and the water on Lake Champlain is quiet as well, without all the extra boats,” said Karen Duhamel, who was visiting from Massachusetts. “Every time I go up to visit, I like going to Canada and going shopping.”

As vaccination rates rise, Canada is now a step closer to opening the border. Vermont Governor Phil Scott points out that’s a White House decision, and the sooner, the better. “We are entering into the later part of our summer, of course fall foliage and the winter months. The Canadians are very important to us in any season,” Scott said.

But what is the financial impact on the Islands? “It varies. As you go further north, there is a greater dependency on Canadian business,” said Andy Julow with the Lake Champlain Islands Economic Development Corporation. He says the islands are seeing some visitors, which is a boost from last year when there was little to none. “It’s a different composition. It’s people from local states driving here versus people from Canada.”

But there is a fear that’s going to end soon as Americans engage in more domestic travel. “Once people get comfortable traveling across the country we are going to lose that, so we really need those Candians to come back and fill that void that they have always have,” Julow said.

Right now the border is officially set to reopen July 21st, but that closure could be extended again as it has month after month since March 2020.

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