Cross-border cottage owners fight to get to their properties for the summer

·4 min read
Joan Lentine's cabin on Willow Beach in Amherstburg (Submitted by Joan Lentine - image credit)
Joan Lentine's cabin on Willow Beach in Amherstburg (Submitted by Joan Lentine - image credit)

Cottage owners who are stranded away from their properties along the border are hoping pandemic restrictions can be relaxed this summer so they can visit.

"It's almost like missing a family member," said Terry Kimlick, who lives in Canton, Mich., and leases a cottage in Rondeau National Park.

The land border between the U.S. and Canada, which closed last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has remained closed to all non-essential travel since then, though air travel to the U.S. is still possible and Canada has allowed some families to reunite but still requires a 14-day quarantine period to do so upon entry.

Terry Kimlick's family near her cottage in Rondeau National Park. She says they sometime fit 15 family members in their cottage to the amazement of their neighbours.
Terry Kimlick's family near her cottage in Rondeau National Park. She says they sometime fit 15 family members in their cottage to the amazement of their neighbours.(Submitted by Terry Kimlick)

Kimlick is third generation from Rondeau. She said her grandparents were a cross-border couple who bought the cottage in 1942. Family members owned cottages in the same spot and she and her siblings spent their childhood summers growing up there.

"So we have Canadian blood although we're all American citizens. We all kind of felt like we don't have the title of dual citizenship but there's a certain amount of pride as well that runs in our family," she said.

Ad campaign

John Adams and his wife own a cabin on Vancouver Island which they spend five or six months at every year. He's purchased air time in Washington state, Buffalo and Detroit, pushing both the Trudeau and Biden administrations to open the border sooner.

John Adams owns a property on Vancouver Island and recently bought air time on television in several states to push both Canadian and U.S. governments to reopen the border
John Adams owns a property on Vancouver Island and recently bought air time on television in several states to push both Canadian and U.S. governments to reopen the border(Submitted by John Adams)

"What my ad is pushing for is a safe and orderly opening, not for everybody but for people who've been fully vaccinated who are either property owners, separated loved ones and people who have vital interests across the border," he said.

He said the ad has garnered a lot of attention in the U.S. but now he said he's helping a Canadian group in Ontario put out a similar ad, and added he is giving them the remainder of the funds donated to him to do it.

"This whole thing exploded," he said.

Essential as well

Joan Lentine, who lives in Canton, Mich., lives just 55 kilometres away from her cottage on Willow Beach in Amherstburg and said she would normally have been there by this time of year.

"We would be in [the water], we would be freezing, it wouldn't be a quick dip but we'd make it to the second sand bar," she told the CBC.

But she and her husband haven't been able to visit since January of last year.

"It's disheartening there are two parts to this, that cottage... it is a gathering place for my family, for the kids and the grandchildren but in addition to that it's a property that needs to be cared for," she said, adding that she's lucky her sister and brother-in-law live near by to check in on it and take care of things like cleaning out the gutters.

"That cottage is a good chunk of change in our retirement money, you know, we were school teachers, we don't have have a fortune."

Joan Lentine is from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., and owns a cottage at Willow Beach in Amherstburg.
Joan Lentine is from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., and owns a cottage at Willow Beach in Amherstburg.(Submitted by Joan Lentine)

She said she has been writing letters to government representatives on both sides of the border pushing for access, and while she said she hadn't heard back from her representatives on the American side of the border, she has gotten responses from MPs Brian Masse and Chris Lewis.

"I would like them to redefine essential traveller," Lentine said, adding that she, her children and some of her older grandchildren have been vaccinated.

"We live in a border city and so medical personnel has been able to come and people work their three 12-hour shifts and go back and have a life, truck drivers come over, there are people commuting," she said.

"I wish that property owners would be labelled essential travellers as well."