Border fence goes up near Lynden where Canadian-American couples meet

Aug 21, 2020, 5:37 PM
border closure...
American Lois England and Canadian Ian Hendon, back when they were allowed to meet next to the Peace Arch. (Photo courtesy of Lois England)
(Photo courtesy of Lois England)

It’s not exactly the famed border wall, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection has installed a cable barrier along a rural stretch of the U.S.-Canada border near Lynden.

U.S. Border Patrol, which is under the umbrella of CBP, said the fence was necessary to prevent illegal border crossings — whether intentional or accidental — and “dangerous criminal enterprises.”

The rural spot has been a popular place for cross-border couples, friends, and relatives to meet up and visit over the five months that the coronavirus pandemic has kept the border closed — and especially after the Canadian side of Peace Arch Park closed in June.

Lois England of Bellingham had been meeting up with Ian Hendon of Surrey, British Columbia — her boyfriend of three years — every weekend at Peace Arch Park, a no-man’s-land that straddles both Washington and British Columbia and can be accessed by both sides without going through border control.

Park providing reunions for couples separated by border closure shuts down

However, the B.C. government closed its side of the park in June due to crowding, after the green space began drawing hoards of people separated from loved ones.

It was then that England and Hendon discovered that the farmland outside Lynden could offer them a new oasis. 0 Avenue in Abbotsford, B.C. and Boundary Road in Lynden run parallel to each other, with a strip of grass in between designating the international line.

“We were going to 0 Avenue, Boundary Road for a while,” England said. “Because when they first said that the park was closed, that was so hard.”

Much as they had done at Peace Arch Park, England and Hendon began bringing camping chairs and meeting up for picnics along the border.

“There’s a marker that says ‘United States’ and on the other side of course it says ‘Canada.’ And so I would sit there and Ian would have his chair, and we’d kind of snuggle there … we could actually sit there and hold hands and hug each other,” England said.

The couple met up there five weeks in a row. England said they saw many other couples doing the same, desperate for something other than video chats after five months apart.

Always mindful that, unlike Peace Arch Park, this was not a designated no-man’s-land, England and Hendon were each careful not to cross into one another’s country.

“We didn’t push it,” England said.

Now a cable fence runs right where the two used to sit and have lunch.

Luckily for the couple, England said that she and Hendon have figured out a new way for love to reign even with closed borders. While the Canadian part of Peace Arch Park immediately next to the arch is closed, another area of the park — a playground and grassy area on a hill a little bit away from the Peace Arch — is still able to be accessed from both sides. On the Canadian side, a residential road and houses line this portion of the park.

“It’s officially allowed,” England said. “No one is sneaking — it’s just one of those little glitches.”

She said that many other couples and relatives are meeting up in this portion of the park. Some Americans are coming from as far away as the East Coast to see their Canadian significant others in the no-man’s-land. England even sees multiple weddings taking place there each weekend.

This area of the park is still strictly patrolled, and couples are only allowed to stay in the green space.

It isn’t the same as being allowed in one another’s nations, but England said that the park is a godsend that she is hanging onto as long as COVID-19 keeps things shut.

“We’ll make it through, but it is so lonely at times,” she said.




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Border fence goes up near Lynden where Canadian-American couples meet