New Brunswick

Campobello Island residents frustrated by new travel requirements

New Brunswick is now requiring Campobello Island residents to complete a travel registration each time they enter or pass through Maine to access services in St. Stephen, N.B. It’s mandatory even if residents don’t stop during the hour-long drive through the U.S.

Islanders need to register in advance before each trip through Maine

Residents of Campobello Island, N.B., are now required to register with the province each time they cross the bridge to Maine. (Julia Wright / CBC)

When Fran Langerfeld goes to buy gas, she makes sure to bring her wallet — and her passport.

That's because the closest gas station for Campobello Island, N.B., residents is across the border in Maine.

But those once routine international trips now require planning several days in advance.

New Brunswick is asking Islanders to complete a travel registration each time they enter or pass through Maine to access services in St. Stephen, N.B. It's mandatory even if residents don't stop during the hour-long drive through the U.S.

"Driving through is certainly becoming a risky situation," Langerfeld said.

Passengers leave the ferry that links Campobello Island to Deer Island, N.B. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

The community has been facing increasingly limited mobility during the U.S. border shutdown. Campobello has no year-round link to mainland New Brunswick, and its seasonal ferry connection to Deer Island, N.B, ends on Dec. 1.

Islanders are partially exempt from the province's travel restrictions and can enter and drive through Maine to access essentials — such as food and medicine — without self-isolating for 14 days.

The latest change comes as new COVID-19 cases rise in Maine.

Langerfeld owns a motel on the island and has to cross frequently to do banking.

"If you had an appointment, you'd have to be really sure ahead of time that you would get it and get it on time," she said. "It's just an added burden and I'm not sure of what good it does."

Residents upset with communication

Islanders say the Department of Public Safety did little to inform them of the changes.

St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus represents Campobello and said communication about the travel registry "wasn't rolled out properly."

"It's no wonder Islanders got their backs up," she said.

If anybody has COVID fatigue, it's the people of Campobello.- St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus

Bockus said the travel registry was created for contact tracing purposes in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.

"If anybody has COVID fatigue, it's the people of Campobello," she said. "They're feeling left out, singled out, alone."

Langerfeld said she found out about it a few days after the announcement.

"It is rather anxiety producing to have to just sit here and wait and wonder from day-to-day what new thing will be announced," she said.

Province speeding up travel registration approvals

New Brunswick began introducing travel registration in July when the Atlantic bubble started.

Coreen Enos, a spokesperson for Public Safety, said the information is used to better understand how residents travel and will help with contact tracing in the event of outbreaks.

Enos said Islanders need to register for both directions when driving between St. Stephen and Campobello, and can do so online or over the phone.

Campobello Island residents need approval from Public Safety to drive to St. Stephen, N.B., even if they don't stop in the U.S. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

"We are taking steps to ensure that the residents of Campobello Island who register to travel get rapid responses," she wrote in an email. "The average turnaround for all travel registrations is one business day; many are approved in minutes but some cases take up to 48 hours to approve."

People are advised to apply five days in advance of travelling.

Public Safety is also making multi-use passes available for people who travel for work, medical care, and for child care or to change child custody. Those are automatically approved.

Ferry service ending soon

The ferry will be ending for the season in about a month. During the winter, residents will lose access to certain goods and services that can't be brought across the international border.

Justin Tinker grew up on the island, but moved to Saint John. He leads a group advocating for year-round ferry service and said the travel changes "came out of nowhere."

"It's just another way that an island resident is disadvantaged and being ignored by the provincial government," he said.

Campobello Island has no year-round link to mainland New Brunswick. (Campobello Island Facebook )

The ferry service has recently been reduced to four days a week, making mainland access even more limited.

Islanders are generally not allowed to cross to visit family. That means Tinker won't be able to see relatives and friends on Campobello once the ferry stops running.

Tinker said the latest mobility change is driving families to consider moving to the mainland.

The community has lost a third of its population over the past two decades.

"The pace of life on Campobello is unlike anywhere else and it's fantastic," he said. "But it's increasingly becoming not worth the price of admission."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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