Aldergrove resident Georgene VanDelft met her U.S. relatives along the border on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. With the shutdown of Peace Arch park, they have had to meet ‘in the ditch’ where two roads run side-by-side along the U.S. – Canada border. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

VIDEO: Families separated by B.C. border restrictions are again meeting ‘in the ditch’ on roads along the border

Following shutdown of Peace Arch, people have returned to 0 avenue in Aldergrove and Abbotsford

With the shutdown of Peace Arch Park, the Lower Mainland road that runs along the Canada-US border has once again become a meeting place for families separated by the COVID-19 closure of the border to all but essential travel.

They gather where 0 Avenue runs alongside East Boundary Road on the U.S side, with only a narrow trench separating the two routes.

Those who go there call it “the ditch,” the only place where they can see the people they care about in the flesh.

For Aldergrove resident Georgene VanDelft, it’s a poor substitute for the regular visits she used to make to her parents and siblings in Lynden and Sumas, just across the border — trips that would normally take around 20 minutes when the border crossing was open to casual trips.

“We haven’t been able to hang out,” she told a Langley Advance Times reporter on Tuesday, June 23, as the Canadian and U.S. branches of her family chatted across the ditch.

Early in the evening, Van Delft, her husband Jason and their children lined up their camping chairs on the 0 avenue side of the ditch, while her parents, Otto and Jeanette Bouwman sat on the U.S. side, along with sister Clarissa Chase and her kids, and brother Derrick Bouwman.

With the Van Delfts, on the Canadian side, was Derrick’s girlfriend, Mekayla Knol, who explained the couple has been kept apart since border crossings were restricted in March.

“We’ve been meeting each other in the ditch, pretty regularly,” Mekalya said.

They had been meeting “three times a week” at the Peace Arch park, Derrick said, but that option disappeared on June 18, when the park was ordered closed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

According to a ministry statement, too many people were turning up at the park to meet family from the other side of the border, creating massive congestion and overwhelming available parking.

READ ALSO: Peace Arch Park to close amid dozens using it as loophole in COVID-19 border restrictions

“They (the ministry) aren’t seeing that this is affecting regular people,” Derrick said.

Otto said the border shutdown has “profoundly impacted” his family, causing “substantial stresses and strains.”

Georgene would like to see rules adjusted to allow for close families like hers, so that her mother could come across the line.

“Right now, if my mom came up to visit me, she’s supposed to stay for 14 days before she goes back. You should be able to visit each other in your home.”

She said her family is “eagerly” looking forward to the day when her family can once again visit each other freely.

“Nobody likes to sit in a ditch,” Jason observed.

READ ALSO: Abbotsford woman launches petition to reopen Peace Arch Park to see fiance

On the day Georgene’s family met at the ditch, about a dozen other people could be seen nearby, in small groups, having similar cross-border get-togethers.

“If you come down on a Saturday, it’s [packed. You may not be able to find a parking spot,” Derrick observed.

Many, Jeanette observed, were young couples like Derrick and Mekayla, separated by the shutdown.

“It’s like lover’s lane,” she said.

On the day of their visit, Langley RCMP could be seen on the Canadian side, apparently patrolling for speeders down the congested road, while a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle could be seen monitoring the American side.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

AldergroveCoronavirusUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

This is how Otto (middle) and Jeanette Bouwman (right) visited their Canadian grandchildren on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The Lynden couple sat across a ditch that runs between two roads that share the US-Canada border near Aldergrove, while their daughter and her family sat on the other side. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

The two sites in question included a number of commercial buildings, some of them currently boarded up. (Langley Advance Times files)
Deal to add Fort Langley land to Kwantlen reserve called off

Elders and a land advisory group within the KFN opposed the project

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

Dwain and Lillian Seymour discovered their Murrayville home was listed for rent without their knowledge as part of a scam. (Langley Advance Times/file)
Guilty plea in Langley rent fraud case

Arrested man admits to 14 criminal counts

Police boats were called in to search the Fraser River after a report that a plane had crashed where the river runs between Langley and Maple Ridge. (Shane MacKichan/Special to The News)
Investigation enters final phase, missing aircraft last seen over Fraser River

Small aircraft was carrying a student and instructor on June 6

Trinity Western University students Nyssa Morgan and Braedon Sunnes take their comedy improv night online for the world to see. (TWU/Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: In year of uncertainties, Langley students try to lift spirits with laughter

TWU students brought 30-year-old comedy improv tradition online

Mary Foote (right) took part in the Gutsy Walk in August 2020 at the age of 104. She was joined by son in-law Clarence and daughter Edith Olson. (family photo)
Langley woman turns 105 on Oct. 25

In August, Mary Foote took part in the Gutsy Walk to battle Crohn’s and Colitis

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Surrey teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

The many faces of Daon Glasgow. (Photos: Surrey RCMP)
Glasgow found not guilty of trying to murder transit cop in Surrey

Transit Police Constable Josh Harms was shot Jan. 30, 2019 at Scott Road SkyTrain Station

Most Read