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Nova Scotia campground owner can’t get across the border to open his business

Verrilli bought this Jaguar XJ-12L new in 1974.
George Verrilli, who spends summers outside Pugwash, hasn't been able to get across the Canada - U.S. border to open the campground he's run for 51 years. - Bill Spurr

So far, the only thing that’s kept George Verrilli from spending the summer in Nova Scotia has been the Second World War.

Now, the coronavirus might do the same.

Verrilli, 91, is a retired obstetrician who is desperate to get back to Nova Scotia because there are 37 families relying on him to open the Gulf Shore Camping Park, which he owns and operates near Pugwash.

He’s been coming here for the summer from New York since 1934 and has operated the campground for 51 years.

“I wanted to go up to open up the camping park, because we have 37 seasonals that stay the whole season,” said Verrilli. “So, Nova Scotia opened that barrier and said, yes, you can open your camping park for the seasonals but you can’t take any off roads — people who travel as tourists, want to stay a night or two and then go on to Cape Breton or whatever.”

But he’s facing an obstacle: the border, closed by COVID-19.

“Being cautious, I called the border in St. Stephen,” said Verrilli, who was told he couldn’t come, and that he’d have to hire somebody to run the campground.

“I said I don’t have anybody to hire. The high school kids won’t work, and even if they were available I have to show them how turn the water on and off, the electric, how to prepare the roads,” he said. “I’m required now to put up a gate that has to be closed so no visitors can come in to come in to visit campers. It goes on and on.”

Verrilli has spoken to tourism officials in Ottawa and border officials in New Brunswick.

“They’re telling me ‘Well, if we let you in, what makes you think you’re going to get into Nova Scotia?’ I haven’t contacted Nova Scotia yet,” he said. “I’ve been turned down four times and I’m not bringing anything other than my talent. I can quarantine at the house, because there’s nobody at the house at the beach. (Two friends have offered to) stock up my fridge so I wouldn’t have to go anywhere to shop.

“I just got myself tested and I’m negative for the virus. I’ve got a certificate I was going to bring with me.”

Verrilli said the fourth time he called the border, a woman promised to look into his situation and get back to him on Thursday. And a tourism official in Nova Scotia has told him he should be allowed across the border.

“If nothing happens Thursday, I’ll probably drive up and bang on the door at the border,” he said about a 800-kilometre drive. “At 91, it’s not a very pleasant thing to think about.”

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