It’s the ideal place to avoid the coronavirus, not catch it.
If fact, there are few better places to isolate and social distance than the beautiful French River.
Yet, under the rules in post-lockdown COVID-19 re-opening strategies, people who run small rental cottage operations are not allowed to open their doors for the 2020 summer season — and they don’t know when that will change.
“We really are in limbo,” said Andrew Rowaan, of North Channel Cottages — one of hundreds of Ontario rental sites affected. “So are our families who have booked their vacations with us.”
As of right now, the first phase of re-opening excludes tiny, seasonal mom-and-pop cottage operations.
Located on the picturesque French River in the Canadian Shield — just minutes off Hwy. 69, an hour south of Sudbury — he and wife, Megan, and their children, Benjamin and August, are living their dream.
Four years ago, they sold their house in St. Catharines and took on the seven-cottage enterprise, knowing they would not get rich. But Rowaan wanted to be able to sustain his family while enjoying the fun of engaging with guests enjoying their stay with them.
“We love it,” said the 34-year-old who gave up his construction job to head north.
But it has not been easy.
“We have had forest fires and floods the last two seasons,” said Andrew.
And now a pandemic.
It’s already a business model that needs to capitalize on a few short summer months, so any crisis is major. To make matters even worse, American guests are unable to cross the border.
This year could be catastrophic.
“We have people who have given us their deposits who want to come,” he said. “We are hopeful (Premier Doug Ford) and the government can give us a potential date so we can make sure we get everything in place and that our visiting families know they can still come.”
Otherwise, they will have to return their deposits — problematic for small operations which use such cash for repairs to “winter damage.” In addition, they haven’t been able to qualify for the federal government’s CERB or business loan programs because of the nature of their small operations.
“We really slip between the cracks,” he said. “Hopefully, they can work it out.”
When you think about it, it really makes no sense to punish cottage rental places because once a family checks in, there’s little need for them to interact with anyone else.
Social distancing measures would be put in place on docks, the beach and at campfire sites to ensure no one has to bump into anybody else in the sparse northern landscape.
It’s actually a great place to avoid people. With families unable to send their kids to overnight summer camps, cottage rentals like this could be a nice alternative.
“You wouldn’t run into as many people here as you would in a grocery store,” said Andrew, who is expecting to become a father for the third time as his wife is expected to deliver in the summer.
This is also the fallout from the narrative set by some cottage country mayors who created a polarized atmosphere whey they urged those with summer recreational residences to stay home and not overwhelm local stores.
Rowaan and his family want people to come north. They believe the only thing people will catch up there are fish — and maybe some rest.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020