Windsor

Pelee Island businesses set to reopen Canada Day with mixed expectations

While locals on Pelee Island are eager to open, many are doing so with caution and uncertainty around what the season will look like.

Some anticipate season will be slow, while others expect to be busy with local travellers

Wandering Dog Inn owner Cathy Miller says their main house is only operating at 40 per cent capacity to ensure guests can maintain their distance. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Owner of Wandering Dog Inn, Cathy Miller, hopes locals will "rediscover" Pelee Island this summer to help keep businesses afloat as the region prepares to reopen on Canada Day. 

"We really hope that this is an opportunity for our neighbours in Essex County and Windsor to rediscover the private island in their backyard," Miller said. 

Like many other businesses in the region, Miller was given the green light to reopen to the public at the start of what would normally be the island's peak months. 

While locals are eager to open, many are doing so with caution. Unlike the rest of Windsor-Essex County, Pelee Island has not had a single case of COVID-19 and Miller said locals are hoping to keep it that way. 

"I'm concerned in general for all of us, but … we are all also required to trust members of our community to do the right thing," she said, adding that includes trusting that everyone will follow public health guidelines by wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing practices. 

Last year at this time Miller's inn was 80 per cent booked, but now she said they're only operating at 40 per cent capacity in the main house to allow guests to be spaced out 

"Social distancing is what we do on Pelee Island, it's what we do every day here," Miller said. "It's what we're good at." 

Ferry to island running at half capacity 

Rick Masse, owner of Comfortech Bicycle Rentals, said that when his business opens their doors for the first time this year there will be many new measures to keep everyone safe. 

"I feel that we need to be very cautious," Masse said. "If it's possible to make money while we're staying safe it's going to be awesome, if it's not possible then we believe that the risk is not warranted." 

The Pelee Islander, one of the island's ferries, is only running at half capacity, which has some island businesses anticipating a slower-than-usual season. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Masse said because the ferry to the island is running at half capacity, business likely won't be the same as in previous years. 

Meanwhile other businesses on the island expect this season won't be much different than usual. 

"We're anticipating something almost normal...after July 1," said Lake Muse Bed and Breakfast and Cottage Rental co-owner Ron Tiessen. 

He said it appears there will be an increase in local travel considering the borders are still closed and this might allow him to be "as busy as normal." 

"Our expectations were zero business, at least that's what it looked like in April," said Tiessen, whose seasonal business usually opens in the spring. "We've lost a part of the season, but we're very grateful that there might be a part left." 

At the same time, he acknowledged that how much business he gets may depend on whether or not restaurants and other tourist destinations, like Pelee Island Winery, decide to open. 

On Thursday, a portion of $30 million earmarked for local tourism organizations through the federal government's Regional Relief and Recovery Fund was awarded to Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island. The organization will receive the funding from the Tourism Association of Ontario to boost local tourism. 

With files from Tahmina Aziz and Jennifer La Grassa

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