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'It Is A Culture Shock' - Closure Of US-Canada Border Rattles Northern Maine Town

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Julia Bayly
/
Bangor Daily News/file
The international bridge connecting Fort Kent to Clair, New Brunswick, looking from Fort Kent into Canada, seen in 2013.

Towns along the U-S Canadian border will likely see some economic challenges after leaders of the two nations agreed to close the border in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.Fort Kent Town Manager Suzie Paradis says the economies of small towns along the border are intertwined, "as we have residents from both sides - Fort Kent and Claire, New Brunswick - who rely heavily on their shopping needs such as groceries or gas. Many come over and the fuel up their vehicles, or they'll stop in at the grocery store to pick up the essentials - milk, eggs, chicken, bread."

Paradis says the culture will likely be impacted as well. "Many of our citizens in the area have duel citizenship. We have relatives on both sides of the border. So it is a culture shock to know that the border is closing," she says. "But this is probably in the best interest for everybody. "

The border closure applies only to non-essential travel.  The town's fire department will likely still be able to honor its mutual aid agreement with Claire and St. Francois in New Brunswick.

Fort Kent, in northern Aroostook County, has closed restaurants and canceled planned events to comply with Maine Gov. Janet Mills' prohibitions on gatherings of groups of 10 or more people.

The long-term effects of the border closure are not yet known. But Paradis says it makes sense in order to better contain the virus.  The border could shut down as early as Friday night, officials say.