FOREST CITY, Maine — Four years ago, Bob Parker and other residents of this small Maine community were rankled when U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans to demolish and replace the current land port of entry in Forest City with a new, estimated $8 million facility.
An average of 6.6 cars pass through the port each day, and it is only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Sundays and holidays. The port exists in a community where approximately 12 people live permanently and 30 live in the summertime.
When residents heard of the plans for a modernized facility with enhanced technology and updated infrastructure back in 2010, they decried the project as a waste of money and a threat to the peace and quiet enjoyed by the residents of Forest City, a rural community at the border of Washington and Aroostook counties and New Brunswick. Agency officials maintained that the upgrades would improve CBP’s capacity to facilitate growing trade and travel while preventing illegal activity and the entry of terrorists, terrorist weapons and contraband.
Parker and other Forest City residents fought back. After pressure from area landowners and intervention from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who also expressed opposition to the agency’s original proposal, plans were scaled back to the current $5.4 million facility.
Earlier this week, Parker watched as the same story began playing out just across the border in a town with the same name.
In its New Brunswick counterpart, the Forest City border crossing is one of seven small border stations across Canada that’s been identified for expansion, a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency told CBC News on Jan. 20. Officials with Canada Border Services Agency did not return a request for comment by press time Thursday.
The spokesperson told CBC News that the new structure “will project a professional and modern look” and “will be integrated in the community and local roadways in the most efficient manner possible.”
Sherrill Guimond, one of the community’s few year-round residents, said Wednesday that she was “shocked” when she heard the news.
“I would hate to see a big huge building put right in our little community and have it destroy the peace and quiet that we have here,” she said. “I think also that it’s just an unnecessary expense. The traffic coming through the border here is minimal.”
Guimond said that the traffic through doesn’t even increase much during the summer, especially since there is a second border crossing at the Orient/Fosterville checkpoint that is just 20 minutes away from Forest City.
“That is the one that people usually take because it gets them to Houlton, where they can do their shopping and stock up on groceries and supplies,” she said.
Back in Forest City, Maine, Parker said that while the new border station, which was completed in 2011, isn’t as bad as it could have been, he still believes it was a waste of money because such a large, high-tech facility was not needed at a port that only sees an average of 6.6 cars per day.
“They didn’t need something that big,” he said. “There is still only a handful of cars going through there a day. In the summertime it gets busier, but not much. I just think it was a waste, what they did.”
Without comment from the Canadian Border Services Agency and verification of the project’s timeline, it is unclear what the next steps are for building an upgraded border crossing facility at the Forest City, New Brunswick.