PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County officials greeted the news that fully vaccinated Canadians will be able to cross into the United States for nonessential reasons beginning next month with excitement and optimism.
"We are glad that we will soon see the Canadian visitors come down here and take advantage of our area," County Legislature Chair Mark Henry (R-Area 3, Beekmantown, Chazy) told the Press-Republican, noting that they'd be able to visit friends, local restaurants, seasonal homes and, likely next year, their boats.
"We’re appreciative of all the work that has been done and has FINALLY succeeded."
WIN-WIN FOR EVERYBODY
Legislator Robert Hall (D-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh), who chairs the legislature's Airport Committee, forecasted full flights to Florida out of Plattsburgh International Airport this winter, saying Allegiant Air will have to ensure enough departures to accommodate Canadian snowbird travel.
"I think if they do that, and I’m sure they will, it’ll be a huge success," he said.
Hall also projected a full parking lot; he explained that parking fees pay for much of the debt service on the airport's terminal, though COVID relief funding from the federal government has helped offset financial strain.
Hall added that many do not realize a good portion of the Canadians who utilize the airport come down a couple days before their flights, bringing business to local hotels and restaurants.
“This is a win-win all the way around for everybody.”
Despite the absence of Canadian tourists this year, sales-tax revenues — the county's primary revenue stream — have remained healthy, consistently exceeding budgeted projections.
Henry anticipates that the impact on the remainder of this year will be small, beginning with an initial trickle of southbound traffic.
"But certainly as Canadian friends, visitors start to come down here starting in January and down through the rest of the year, I think it’ll have a great impact on our sales tax and our economy for this area," he continued.
"We are tied so closely to Canada — our economic ties and our personal, friendly ties as well."
The potential for long-term damage to the latter, often described as the driver of a special, unique bond between the two countries, was listed as a concern throughout the effective ban on nonessential travel.
"The Canadians are our friends, our allies, our economic partners," Henry said. "We look forward to working with them and I am sure that any disruptions, any hard feelings, anything like that, if it does exist, will be repaired."
'TIED RIGHT IN'
Legislator Calvin Castine (R-Area 1), whose district covers the border communities of Champlain and Rouses Point, and part of Mooers, anticipated that families and businesses would be extremely pleased with the announcement.
"I think we’ve just got to have a positive attitude and move forward and not worry about why it took so long or anything like that," he said. "That’s done with — you can’t change that."
On how the communities he represents have been uniquely impacted by the 19-month lockdown, Castine, who produces Home Town Cable, referenced how, during a recent soccer game he was covering, the play-by-play announcer commented on the number of French names on Northeastern Clinton's team.
"We’re tied right in," he said. "If you’ve been here a couple generations, chances are your relatives came from Canada.
"It’s impacted us family-wise probably more than the southern part of our county. Being right on the border has impacted the businesses in Champlain, Rouses Point and Mooers that rely on these people coming through."
GOOD OUTWEIGHS BAD
Castine hopes Clinton County can continue to improve its COVID numbers so that Canadians will feel comfortable traveling southward.
Clinton County Health Department Principal Public Health Educator Molly Flynn said any increase in foot-traffic to the area brings the potential risk of increased coronavirus spread.
"However, in this case, CCHD feels the good outweighs the bad," she continued. "This will be a positive change for many of our local business who have been patient and very cooperative with public health measures throughout the pandemic.
"If everyone uses common sense and is courteous to one another, the impact should be minimal."
CCHD asks that everyone — visitor or resident — in Clinton County abide by recommended public health measures: wear a mask in all indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces, keep at least six feet between their party and others, and stay home if they or anyone in their party is feeling sick.
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