Jul. 3—PLATTSBURGH — With eased border restrictions making travel between the United States and Canada smoother this summer, Canadians are back in the area and ready to enjoy Lake Champlain at local beaches and marinas.
PLATTSBURGH CITY BEACH
At the start of Fourth of July weekend Saturday, the day after Canada Day, many vehicles, the majority of them Canadian owned, lined the parking lot at Plattsburgh City Beach.
This time last year, it would have been a rare sight to see so many Canadian license plates south of the U.S.-Canadian border.
For one Canadian family, this was their first-ever trip to Plattsburgh City Beach.
"We plan to have some fun, enjoy the beach," Joe Jean-Baptist said.
"And sight see, because it's our first time here," Sarah Jean-Baptist added.
Sarah and Joe also had their son, JR, with them.
EASIER BORDER CROSSING
They emphasized that the lessened restrictions at the border influenced their decision to make the trip down to Plattsburgh.
"We didn't try (crossing the border) before, because it was crazy," Sarah said.
"Today, it was fine."
Joe agreed, saying that "the border was easy."
"It was...fluid, maybe two minutes waiting. It was perfect."
Martin Hamel, another Canadian spending the day at Plattsburgh City Beach, shared similar sentiments.
"Not bad," Hamel said about crossing the border.
"(We've) been here five times."
PLATTSBURGH BOAT BASIN
Art Spiegel, owner of Plattsburgh Boat Basin, said the Canadians' absence has been heavily felt at his marina over the past two years.
As they slowly return, he has welcomed them back with open arms.
"There's no question about that," Spiegel said.
"We are certainly nearing capacity (now) and...we probably have fewer Canadians than in the past, but not by many. The Canadians, to us, in years past, have represented 80% of our capacity. and what is it today? I'd say it's going to be pretty close to that.
"They had a couple years where they were kept away, but they are down here now with smiles on their faces — cleaning, polishing, getting things ready. If (their boats) aren't in the water already, they will be soon. It's going to be a good summer."
Spiegel said the locals helped a lot the past two years by stepping up to fill that void left by the Canadians when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from crossing the border.
"We did have a lot of U.S. people come that wanted to be in the marina, so we've had to provide for them, plus all the older customers who have been here for years," he said.
"Thank God the sun is shining on the boat basins...it's like the restaurant business, the (Naked) Turtle needs ice cubes, and we need sunshine."
But the Canadian's return has coincided with many issues plaguing the current economic climate.
High gas prices is one issue, in particular, that many marinas are struggling with.
But, Spiegel said, because of their location, Plattsburgh Boat Basin has been "fortunate" to feel minimal effects of the high gas prices.
"Gas prices are limiting where people are going with their boats," he said.
"(But) our location is ideal, because people can access Plattsburgh so easily, get on their boats so easily and go to different restaurants on the lake. They can hop on their boat, and if they don't want to stay overnight here, or go to the restaurant, they can go over to Valcour Island a mile away and be just as happy as can be, like they're in another world. So they don't need to spend a lot of money on gas."
Spiegel is optimistic that marinas everywhere will make a full recovery from the pandemic.
"It's definitely on recovery mode, because the gas prices are certainly having an effect on the amount of gas sold, but it'll come back little by little. I'm sure it'll come back," he said.
"The marina business (here), thank God, is going to be a forever business because of this beautiful lake."
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