BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C.-Alaska Night Border Closure Divides Community In Two -- To Save Money

02/26/2015 08:02 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
daniel50 via Getty Images
Tourist at Salmon glacier Stewart near Hyder, Alaska.
People from Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, Alaska have lived side-by-side for more than 100 years and have shared everything from emergency services to grizzly bear sightings.

But the two northerly towns that operate as one community will soon be cut off from each other, as Canada's Border Services Agency (CBSA) plans to close the border crossing between midnight and 8 a.m. to save money.

"It seems like a very short-sighted decision," said Angela Brand-Danuser, a small business owner and former mayor of Stewart, who believes the move to close the border doesn't make any sense for the communities.

Stewart, which is across from Alaska's Misty Fiords National Park, calls itself North America's most northern ice-free port. It has a population of about 300, while about 60 people live in Hyder.

Brand-Danuser says some residents need to cross the border before 8 a.m. for work and is concerned emergency services could be blocked from getting through to the neighbouring community.

"Most people in Stewart and Hyder consider ourselves almost like one community and not being able to travel between the two whenever you choose isn't going to be right," Brand-Danuser said.

Crossing not used enough, says CBSA

Jennifer Bourque, the CBSA's spokesperson, said the agency reviewed the crossing and decided it wasn't used enough to warrant 24-hour service.

"While the CBSA recognizes that the change in hours will affect some, the agency remains committed to the free flow of legitimate goods and people across the border," Bourque said.

The community learned about the closure at a Feb. 23 council meeting.

"People are quite upset," Brand-Danuser said. "Some people don't believe they can put a gate down and block access to and from another community but that's what CBSA's going to do.

She said the new hours are scheduled to come into effect April 1, just before summertime, when there are more tourists visiting the towns and the area has about 20 hours of daylight a day.

"It would be kind of nice if the government finally, for once, did something that wasn't only about money and cents and that was the best for the two communities," she said.

To hear more from Stewart and Hyder, click on this audio

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