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The 18-hole Aroostook Valley Country Club in Fort Fairfield will no longer allow Americans to play on its golf course because the course itself is in New Brunswick.
The Canadian government, the provincial government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police informed AVCC pro-manager Steve Leitch on Tuesday night that Americans can’t have access to the course due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ruling adds another chapter to a bizarre string of events at the AVCC, which spans both countries.
The parking lot and pro shop are in Fort Fairfield and the course itself and the clubhouse are in New Brunswick.
Canadians hadn’t been able to play the course because they had to use the Four Falls Border Crossing in New Brunswick to gain access to the course via car and the Canada Border Services Agency closed the station.
The 91-year-old course will remain open but the only way Canadians can play the course is by using another mode of transportation to cross the border.
Leitch said one Canadian golfer used a canoe to get to the course.
However, Canadians who work at the golf course can come into Maine because they are considered essential workers.
“The Canadian government had declared the country under a declaration of emergency so the Canada-U.S. border is closed. People from either country can’t gain access through the ports of entry. Since golfers are not considered essential in Health Canada’s eyes, we must abide by it,” Leitch said.
Leitch said he wasn’t shocked at the decision but he was surprised by the timing of it.
“I thought it might happen when we initially opened in May. I didn’t think it would happen on July 15,” he said.
He said Canadian government officials didn’t give him a reason for their decision.
“When you are dealing with the government, they don’t need to give you a reason,” Leitch said.
Leitch said they will continue to adhere to coronavirus guidelines designed to prevent the spread of the illness. He stressed that even though he will have to lay off some workers, they will do everything they can to keep the course in top condition.
“I’m not going to let it [deteriorate]. We will maintain it,” he said.
The membership is usually closely divided between Americans and Canadians with the Americans having a slight advantage, and Leitch said members from both countries have been very supportive of him and the golf course.
Several members continue to pay for their memberships even if they have very limited access, if any, to the course, he said.
There won’t be any tournaments this season and there will be significant revenue loss even though AVCC won’t incur the expenses it normally would.
Fort Fairfield’s Larry Gardner and Presque Isle’s Ralph Michaud have been members at the AVCC for 54 and 50 years, respectively.
“Everybody on both sides of the border is disappointed,” Gardner said.
“That’s an understatement,” said Michaud, who added that he is “very worried” about the future of the golf course.
Michaud said one of the perplexing aspects of the situation is New Brunswick and Maine are two places that have done a nice job “controlling the outbreaks of the coronavirus.”
There have only been 168 cases and two deaths in New Brunswick from the coronavirus so far, and Aroostook County has had only 25 cases with one death.
There were 3,598 cases in Maine as of Friday morning but 3,002 were in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties which require at least a four-hour drive to Fort Fairfield.
“I just hope people can work it out for the members on both sides of the border,” said Gardner, a member of the course’s board of directors.