Campobello Island residents say trek through Maine raises COVID-19 concerns
Passengers board a car ferry for the short trip from Campobello Island, N.B., to nearby Deer Island, N.B., on Aug 1, 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett)
FREDERICTON -- Some residents of Campobello Island, N.B., who must drive into the United States to reach the Canadian mainland, are asking the province for another way to get supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ulysse Robichaud says residents of the island don't want to go into the U.S. during the health crisis, and he has written to Premier Blaine Higgs to suggest the government provide a truck or boat with food, gasoline and other necessities.
"We want to stay out of the U.S. like other New Brunswickers are able to do. We are serious about not putting our island community in jeopardy," Robichaud wrote in his letter.
"Our first choice would be to have ferry service directly to New Brunswick to stay safe and in our own country, like other Canadians," he added.
The island has a seasonal ferry in the summer months to nearby Deer Island and then another ferry to the mainland, but otherwise residents must cross a bridge into Lubec, Maine and drive an hour to cross back into Canada at St. Stephen, N.B.
Canada and the United States have an agreement to allow residents of the island to make the trek, and Higgs said they won't have to self-isolate afterwards.
"They wouldn't have to self-isolate because they would have a transit to go right directly through Maine and back into New Brunswick. That wouldn't be an issue," he said.
"If they don't want to stop in Lubec or get groceries in Lubec that's a personal choice and I can understand that. But they are able to get back into New Brunswick and we'll always ensure that's possible, whether it be for essential supplies, whether it be for health care concerns, we will ensure the residents have movement and can get back into New Brunswick," Higgs said.
Campobello has a population of about 870, which swells in the summer months, as tourists flock there to enjoy the scenery and sites such as the former summer home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
There are no gas stations on the island and only a few small stores.
Robichaud said he knows he is able to make the drive through Maine, but doesn't think it's fair that he should have to.
"We should have the same options as other New Brunswickers. We should not have to be forced to go to the State of Maine," he said in an interview.
"If I had to get fuel today, even if it was in St. Stephen, I would have to cross two borders and come back into New Brunswick. It doesn't make sense," he said.
Higgs said there isn't enough traffic to warrant a year-round ferry for the island, but the province is looking at starting the service earlier this year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2020.