celebrate Canada Day

Cortes Island stores celebrate Canada Day

CKTZ News, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Cortes Island stores celebrated Canada Day, but not because of the nation’s Confederation 154 years ago. 

British Columbia began step three of its restart plan. Face masks are no longer mandatory. People can gather in larger numbers and go to restaurants.

photo credit: Boats arriving in Squirrel Cove – Curt Cunningham photo
The Floathouse Restaurant on Canada Day
Deck of the Floathouse Restaurant – Roy L Hales photo

Canada Day: Floathouse Restaurant

“You can definitely tell that things are changing. The last couple of weeks it has been a steady uptick. This weekend in particular, starting yesterday. We were closed for the heatwave, but it was like somebody flicked a switch. Everybody is out and there are people moving around. I would say it is almost business as usual. I have no comparison. I wasn’t here in a regular summer before,” said Carol Pierce of the Floathouse Restaurant, when we finally connected via ZOOM shortly after 8 PM.

She estimated there were 50 people in the restaurant and another 50 to 60 listening to a live performance in the lawn below. The Gorge Harbour Store was just closing. Carol believed it was ‘adult swim’ in the pool, but that is another in part of the resort.

“It is nice to see people out again and everybody seems happy to be out,” she said.

The Gorge Harbour docks on Canada Day
Early afternoon at Gorge Harbour Marina – Roy L Hales photo

Canada Day: Gorge Harbour Marina

There had easily been 40 people at the Gorge Harbour Marina when Cortes Radio arrived earlier that afternoon. They were everywhere: in the pool, the parking lot, the General Store. The tables out on the deck of the Floathouse Restaurant were packed with customers. More were waiting to be seated.

Cortes Radio had arranged for an interview with General Manager Bill Dougan down at the dock but the interview was not possible due to the high volume of Canada Day customers.

Natalia Nybida in the Cortes Museum on Canada Day
Natalia Nybida, this summer’s intern at the Cortes Island Museum – Roy L Hales photo

Canada Day: Mansons Landing

Mansons Landing was quieter, but the Natural Food Co-op parking lot was packed and the new manager was too busy to even think about being interviewed.  

Natalia Nybida, this summer’s intern at the Cortes Island Museum, was free to talk. 

“There were a few people today. Lots of people from Vancouver recently, a couple from Ontario,” she said.

Squirrel Cove General Store – Courtesy Curt Cunningham

Canada Day: Squirrel Cove General Store

There were ten customers in the Squirrel Cove General Store. A masked mother was careful to stay six feet distant as she exited the store, three masked children and a husband in tow. One of the unmasked women inside agreed to be photographed as she shopped, but it was not a good shot. Owner/Manager Curt Cunningham agreed to an interview after he closed at 6 PM. 

“There is a marked improvement today. There were a lot more tourists, both by boat and by car. In the middle of the day we had line-ups. I haven’t experienced line-ups like this for two years, in the store. We are still down from what it was before COVID, but is was a marked improvement and very encouraging,” said Curt.

Compiled from Island Health data by Roy L Hales

BC’s Restart Plan

The improvement began two or three weeks ago, around the time BC entered step two of its restart plan.  

Yesterday was also the third day in a row that Island Health reported no active COVID cases in North Vancouver Island. There was only one active case during the five days prior to that. 

Curt noticed the improvement in his business.

“It has been getting better, but today there seemed to be a jump. Lots of traffic on Cortes Island. I know the ferries were overloaded terribly yesterday.  There just seems to be a marked improvement today over yesterday, but a steady build-up over the past several weeks,” he said.

Some of the tourists came from Victoria or Nanaimo, but the majority were from Comox and Northern Vancouver Island. 

Curt was delighted by the fact he no longer had to wear a mask.

“I have complete faith in our medical system and their advice. I feel very safe and secure, even with BC tourists coming in. We seem to be moving in the right direction and everything indicates that,” he said.

Playing volleyball at the Squirrel Cove store – Curt Cunningham photo

Part of the Cortes Community 

“I’m always excited, thrilled and happy to be part of the Cortes Community. I feel well supported by the residents on the island. People go out of their way to offer support and frequent the store, which I greatly appreciate.” 

He added, “That is sincere. I get people who literally thank me for being here … Everyone knows that it is a struggle. We are doing the best we can and I think people are actually going out of their way to try and support me.” 

So that was how some of Cortes Island’s stores celebrated Canada Day. 

Gorge Harbour General store on Canada Day
Some of the people outside the Gorge Harbour Marina General Store – Roy L Hales photo

Links of Interest:

Top photo credit: Walking from darkness into light on the path to the Gorge Harbour docks – Roy L Hales photo

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