"I’m ecstatic:" Canadian neighbors can soon drive into U.S.

[anvplayer video=”5063121″ station=”998130″]

Americans have been crossing the border into Canada since early August. And Canadians can fly into the U.S. But after 19 months of closure, they will soon be able to drive too.

"I’m ecstatic. It just didn’t feel fair that we were able to go there and they weren’t able to come here," Linda Jurek said.

Jurek heads up Visit Cook County. She said they have certainly missed their northern visitors.

"Our partners up at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino really felt the impact, not only because there’s some workforce that comes, but it was a very significant day trip for Thunder Bay folks to just come down to the Casino and hang out," Jurek said.

She also hopes to again see Canadians skiing at Lutsen Mountains and participating in events like the Lutsen 99er and Le Grand du Nord.

An end to the Canadian cutoff is not only good news for tourism, but also the local economy at large. Adam Fulton, Duluth’s deputy director of planning and economic development, said part of the reason Costco was interested in Duluth was its proximity to Thunder Bay. It’s about a four-hour drive.

"Costco identified that there are many members that are living up in Thunder Bay … who maybe don’t live in the Thunder Bay region full-time," Fulton said. "These are people who maybe travel in the winter and have that Costco membership so that they can use it while they’re in the other location."

With 140,000 people in the Thunder Bay region, Fulton said there are lots of opportunities for the Northland.

"There are probably people from Canada who haven’t yet had a chance to see our revitalized Lakewalk, that have seen that we’ve opened new mountain bike trails," he said. "We know people from Canada come to Duluth for those types of recreational opportunities."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has been lobbying for an open border for months.

"Once (Canada) opened, it was only a matter of time," Klobuchar said. "I think one of the things that slowed it down was the increase in the variant. And now we know the Canadians actually have been vaccinated at a higher rate than people in the U.S."

She also felt the logistics of the closure could not be sustained.

"This is allowed right now: You can fly from Montreal to Miami or from Ottawa to the Twin Cities, but you can’t drive from Thunder Bay to Duluth," she said. "I think the situation was untenable."

An exact reopening date has not been set, so Sen. Klobuchar said she plans to continue working with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on firming that up.

Whether it’s Duluth, Grand Marais, Grand Portage, or any Northland destination, people are ready for Canadians’ return.

"We as a destination marketer have a campaign ready to kick off in Thunder Bay welcoming everybody back," Jurek said.