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Northwest town dangling on peninsula facing humanitarian crisis

Update coming July 4 in the Sunday edition of News for RVers

BREAKING NEWS
The Washington-based staff at RVtravel.com recently became aware of one of the strangest and potentially economically devastating situations being driven by the pandemic and the closure of the border between the U.S. and Canada. Every day, the situation for local residents becomes more dire.

KING 5 Television in Seattle is reporting (see news clip below) that the only grocery store in tiny Point Roberts, Washington, is set to close July 15 due primarily to the border closure coupled with Point Roberts’ unique geographical location.

A GEOGRAPHIC ANOMALY
Point Roberts is the only town on a tiny peninsula of land just south of Vancouver, British Columbia. Problem is, Point Roberts is dangling just over the U.S. border with Canada, making it a very unique part of Washington state.

Ali Hayton, owner of the International Marketplace in Point Roberts, said her business just can’t hold on any longer as the prolonged border crossing closure stretches into at least late July. Hayton told KING 5 that the store was dependent on customers and suppliers from Canada, and that the closure has made it impossible to stay in business and serve the tiny community of 1,000 residents just below the 49th parallel.

“I feel we need to help if we can,” said RVtravel.com publisher Chuck Woodbury. “These Americans are being hung out to dry. I feel strongly that my staff and I, along with RVtravel.com readers, can and must do something to help.”

Hayton’s store currently employs 10 people, down from the usual 15. It’s still the largest – and practically only – business left in town. Her store usually saw more than 8,000 customers a week during summer months. In the past 15 months, she said she hasn’t seen a total of 1,800 shoppers. “I can’t keep losing $30,000 a month,” she said.

The Point Roberts, Washington, fire chief is warning of a humanitarian crisis if the community’s lone grocery store closes.

To reach the rest of Washington, Point Roberts residents must cross the border twice – once to head north off the peninsula, and once to head south again to cross into the U.S. at Blaine, Washington.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that the border will remain closed to non-essential traffic at least through July 21. The community of Point Roberts would like an exemption to be granted to basically allow non-essential border crossings at the Boundary Bay Port of Entry.

Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, told KING 5 that the governor is aware of the issue and has been working with his Canadian counterparts. Both Governor Inslee and British Columbia Premier John Horgan have advocated for relief for Point Roberts residents in recent communications with their respective federal governments.

It’s a unique problem brought on by the pandemic and illustrates the ripple effect of the closure on communities on both sides of the border.

Within a day or two, RVtravel.com will have information about how you can help the citizens of this small community and Ms. Hayton’s store get through this perilous time.

Watch the KING-5 news story.

##RVT1006b

 

 

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William Hall
3 months ago

So, the grocery store counted on Canadian customers, who still have many choices when it comes to getting groceries. It’s the store that can’t get supplies to continue to serve the small American community. Supplies are shipped by barge from Seattle to Alaska all the time and there’s no reason that supplies cannot be shipped from Seattle, or any city with a waterfront on Puget Sound, to the marina at Point Roberts. Leave it to the politicians to solve the problem and the residents of Point Roberts will starve to death. As for all of the comments about using the military to deliver supplies, the military should be used in “dire emergencies”, but this is not a “dire emergency”. The Governor of Washington state has all of the resources needed to assist in getting supplies to Point Roberts, if he is so inclined.

Ray
3 months ago

I like the idea of using the military. Not only to deliver aid but perhaps consider making it a naval outpost. That should boost the town’s vitality. It seems like a very strategic location to me.

jillie
3 months ago

I agree. It is a humanitarian effort and the military needs to do an air drop or send in ships to help the citizens caught in the cross fire. I guess every one who reads this or knows of someone who knows someone in their state and has pull might be able to help. You can forget that thing in office. His humanitarian aid is a crises at the border. He has no clue. Which is why our borders are still closed. I wish I could help but don’t have that much pull. Washington State should be able to do some pull. Good luck.

Dr. Michael
3 months ago

Solution- Have the US military fly in all the groceries and other inventory. If there is no place to land an aircraft, then use helicopters. This may not be THE solution, but at least it will work until the border opens back up.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
3 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Michael

Hi, Dr. Michael. Thank you for your concern and great suggestion. But I don’t think it’s the lack of groceries that’s the problem. I think it’s the lack of business from Canadians, who apparently provided 90% of the store’s income before the border was closed due to the pandemic. According to an update on KING-5 News today, the Washington congresswoman who represents Point Roberts, Rep. Suzan DelBene, sent a letter today to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting he grant an immediate exemption for Point Roberts residents from the border closure and reopen the Boundary Bay Border Crossing. Tough situation for that little, unique town. –Diane

Retired Firefighter Tom
3 months ago

I heard about this at least a month ago here in Wisconsin. Surprised that Seattle folks didn’t hear about this earlier. Agree that its terrible that most of her customers are Canadians who are NOT allowed to “cross the border” and do business at the local store. Difficult situation for those nearby Candaians, too.

Dave J
3 months ago

Very similar to the problem up at Minnesota’s North West Angle.
The folks Minnesotans that live and work there have to get there via Canada if by land otherwise by small boat or small airplane. The Angle relies on tourism and that’s pretty difficult with the border closed.

Hook n' Haul 789
3 months ago

I would think that providing groceries, supplies and commerce to this isolated cross-border community would, and should, be declared essential travel. Some bureaucratic decisions are just plain dumb.

Dave J
3 months ago

I believe her problem is not in the supply of products to sell but rather in the loss of Canadian customers. In her case a goodly portion of her customer base is prevented from shopping at her store. Customers she needs to stay in business.

Bruce Roche
3 months ago

The border is closed because the US screwed Canada by closing down the pipeline.

Dave J
3 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Roche

Border was closed long before that pipeline was blocked.
Apples and oranges in my opinion. If it were because of politics I’d look at COOL, and the lumber tariffs. The tar sands pipeline was small peanuts in comparison. A lot of noise down here due to probable leaks but no big deal up there either way.

Julie
3 months ago

I’m curious about the history of how this tiny little spot of land was claimed by the US, rather than Canada, when that jagged NW corner of the state was created. A quick Google speaks to the 49th parallel but if that were the only thing, shouldn’t some of the small islands have been included, too? Maybe when the follow up ‘how to help’ column comes, we could learn more?

Last edited 3 months ago by Julie
Dave J
3 months ago
Reply to  Julie

Looking at Lake if the Woods (Minnesota, Manitoba, and Ontario) several small islands were either on one side or the other. I don’t believe any had to be split. (WHAT A MESS THAT WOULD BE). Imagine living on a 25 acre island with several neighbors but split down the middle with a border under these “condutions”………

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave J

My uncle has a farm that straddles the IL/IN state line. He gets two tax bills, one from IL the other from IN. Since his home and all the buildings are on the IL side that tax bill is higher.

Snayte
4 months ago

Google street view stops at the border how strange.

Brian Karsjens
4 months ago

Somewhat similar problem exists for the NW Angle residents in MN. No tourists for the past two summers. Only road access is from MN to Manitoba and then back to MN (NW Angle).

J.R.
4 months ago

Don’t see a reason why it couldn’t be opened. The closure is a mutual agreement between the two countries. They should figure this out together.

gFab
4 months ago
Reply to  J.R.

Agree, this is certainly a “need”, not a want scenario. Not rocket science