Point Roberts is a Washington state ghost town in the making

The pandemic has cut off this tiny American exclave from the rest of the world. #k5evening

POINT ROBERTS, Wash. – Disclaimer: This is an encore presentation from KING 5’s Evening.

At the best of times, Point Roberts, Washington is a laid-back Canadian getaway nearby. These aren’t the best of times.

“We’re just a forgotten part of Washington,” said resident Rick Hoole.

This American outpost is located at the tip of Canada’s Tsawwassen Peninsula, just south of Vancouver.

“Mother Nature gave us a gem,” said Chamber of Commerce President Brian Calder. “Just a wonderful place to be.”

But now COVID-19 has effectively closed the two land lines that stand between “the point” and the rest of Whatcom County. A new regulation requiring COVID testing for people visiting Canada has been waived for Point Roberts residents to allow them to transit through British Columbia en route to essential services in the United States, 25 miles away. But residents still cannot visit nearby British Columbia communities, and Canadians cannot freely enter and exit Point Roberts, freezing the community’s economy and leaving residents feeling trapped.

“Probably the most unique situation in all of North America,” Calder said.

There is no hospital, dentist or pharmacy in Point Roberts. According to Galen Wood of the Circle of Care volunteer group, many elderly residents in Canada depend on the help of their families.

“And the family members aren’t allowed to come over,” Wood said.

The restrictions apply in both directions.

RELATED: Canada grants border exemption for residents of remote Point Roberts, Washington.

“A young man here was told by the doctors to come see his mother[in Canada]because she was in her final days,” Wood said. “And they wouldn’t let him through the border. And she died that night.”

Canadians thrived at the city’s five gas stations and its only grocery store, the International Marketplace.

“We’re losing money every month,” said Dean Priestman, store manager for the marketplace. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Your customer base is gone.”

“Our economy is powered solely by Canadians,” Calder said.

The city’s business has collapsed by about 90 percent.

“No sign of recovery in sight,” Calder said.

Almost half of the 1,400 residents have left, and the road to the border crossing is empty enough for an afternoon stroll in the middle of the road. There are fewer cars and fewer traffic rules. Many drivers have taken it easy to wheel through stop signs, knowing that local roads are light-traffic.

The Bald Eagle Golf Course remains largely unused. His clubhouse is closed.

“We need to get this pandemic under control and get things back to normal,” said Hoole, who works as the golf course’s superintendent and sole remaining employee.

Seventy-five percent of the Point Roberts property is owned by Canadians like Bob Stuart.

“We have 20 acres there,” he said, just past a knee-high border barrier next to Point Roberts’ Monument Park.

From his location in Canada, just inches from the US, he can almost see his property. But he cannot reach to service it.

“If that ever breaks,” Stuart said, “I’ve got a lot to do, so I’ll be down a little more regularly to clean it all up.”

RELATED: A borderline pandemic is transforming the lives of Blaine residents

This unique place needs a unique solution.

“It kills Point Roberts,” Stuart said.

But with two federal governments unable to agree to move forward, there doesn’t appear to be a solution along the way.

Calder makes one last, desperate request.

“Someone,” he said, “come and take care of us!”

RELATED: Point Roberts looks forward to welcoming returning Canadians as border reopens

Disclaimer: This is an encore presentation from KING 5’s Evening.

The evening of KING 5 celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, TwitterInstagram, email.

https://www.king5.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/evening/point-roberts-is-a-washington-state-ghost-town-in-the-making/281-20425018-02fd-4cee-877d-6f6469db9bca Point Roberts is a Washington state ghost town in the making

Emma James

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