What’s the point of Point Roberts?

Vancouver Magazine - - CONTENT - BY Stacey McLach­lan IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY By­ron Eggen­schwiler

Point Roberts is a sober­ing les­son in the value of ‘mea­sure twice, cut once.’

WHEN AMER­ICA AND BRI­TAIN de­cided in 1818 that the 49th par­al­lel would serve as the crisp di­vid­ing line be­tween their na­tions—much like two sit­com room­mates in an ar­gu­ment— they re­ceived a sober­ing les­son in the value of “mea­sure twice, cut once”: li’l Point Roberts was left dan­gling o Cana­dian shores, dis­con­nected from the rest of Wash­ing­ton state. Un­der the law of “No Take­back­sies,” this 12.65-square-kilo­me­tre scrap of land has stayed at­tached to Tsawwassen, but part of the U.S., ever since.

Now ush with Cana­dian im­mi­grants who set up sum­mer cot­tages and then for­got to leave, Point Roberts has 1,300 res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est cen­sus re­port, though that num­ber swells to 4,500 in the sum­mer. And those stats don’t even in­clude the reg­u­lar stream of bor­der-hop­ping day trip­pers who come to stock up on cheap gas and al­co­hol and to feast on il­le­gal-in-B.C. medium-rare burg­ers, which, as science shows, taste de­li­cious ex­pressly be­cause of the thrilling risk of con­tract­ing E. coli. (Or should I say con­tract­ing FREE­DOM?!)

The sep­a­ra­tion from the rest of What­com County by the pesky ocean means it’s a 23-mile drive through Canada to get to Blaine, Wash­ing­ton. The kids of Point Roberts take a bus for the bor­der-cross­ing jour­ney each day, up through Tsawwassen and back down again to their school on the U.S. main­land. Amer­i­can cit­i­zens also have to head to Belling­ham for health treat­ments—the penin­sula has no hospi­tal, doc­tor, den­tist or even open­minded vet­eri­nar­ian (tech­ni­cally, hu­mans are an­i­mals, right?). Some call it a gated com­mu­nity be­cause the bor­der is the only way to get in: no felons al­lowed. Ru­mour has it that the town is home to about 50 peo­ple from the U.S.’s Wit­ness Pro­tec­tion Pro­gram be­cause of this high-se­cu­rity fea­ture, and while I can’t find any way to con­firm this, isn’t the very ab­sence of proof, proof in and of it­self? Think about it.

Point Roberts may be small, but there’s a bustling com­mu­nity.

No­table res­i­dents have in­cluded for­mer Canucks coach John Tor­torella, and Heart’s Roger Fisher and Nancy Wil­son, un­less those are fake iden­ti­ties given to them by the U.S. gov­ern­ment. There’s the busy ma­rina and a cot­tage cot­tage-build­ing in­dus­try. And re­port­ing on it all is the All Point Bul­letin, de­liv­er­ing hard-hit­ting jour­nal­ism (“Tide is low”) and an­swer­ing burn­ing ques­tions from res­i­dents like “Has the theme for the 4th of July 2018 pa­rade been an­nounced yet?” Sources say no, but feel free to use my per­sonal sug­ges­tion: “Un­der­cooked Ham­burg­ers: The Taste of Lib­erty.”

Got a ques­tion for City In­former? stacey.mclach­lan@vanmag.com

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