Residents of New Brunswick’s Campobello Island cross the border into Maine all the time, and they don’t have any choice in the matter. For most of the year, it’s the only way they can get to the rest of their country.

A short bridge ties the ten-mile-long island to Lubec, the easternmost town in the United States, like a dinghy tied behind a much larger ship. For ten months of the year, the only way for Campobello’s 1,200 year-round residents to reach the rest of Canada is to cross the border, make an hour-long drive around Cobscook Bay, and wait in line at Calais to cross over to St. Stephen on the Canadian mainland.

Anything the islanders can’t get or do on their quiet, forested bit of land requires international travel. That includes filling up the car (there’s no gas station here), visiting a hospital, attending the kids’ out-of-town sports events, seeing a movie, or shopping for anything that can’t be found at the island’s modest store.

“We do have a store here now, so a lot of people buy their food here,” says resident Mackie Green, who takes tourists out to see the fin, right and humpback whales that feed along Campobello’s rocky, tide-swept shores in summer. “But there are brands you get used to that can only be found on one side or the other and since you have to go over for gas anyway, you might as well pick up something.”

But as the United States tightens its borders, Campobello islanders are feeling the pinch.

For generations, residents of Campobello, Lubec and other communities in the Passamaquoddy Bay region hardly paid a thought to the border. They dated and married one another, they gave birth to their children in one another’s hospitals, and their fire departments responded to each other’s emergencies.

But since the Sept. 11 attacks, crossing the border has become more difficult, raising concerns amongst Campobello residents that, at the drop of a hat, they could find themselves cut off from the rest of the world.

“Before 9/11 the bridge was just a way to get across the water,” says resident Robert Hooper, a realtor. “Now we’re always wondering, if something happens and the U.S, closes the border up, what are we supposed to do?”

Islanders are particularly concerned about U.S. plans to require all persons crossing into the U.S. from Canada to have a passport as of January 1, 2008, rather than just a photo ID, as has been the case for decades. Not only would islanders need a passport to leave the island for ten months of they year, so would anyone else wishing to visit their island.

“Consider the sports leagues in the schools,” says Eric Allaby, who represents Campobello and two neighboring islands in the provincial legislature. “Teams from the other schools couldn’t come to Campobello unless every child has a passport, even kids from Lubec” who currently play them all the time.

Mr. Allaby rattles off other examples: every Canadian civil servant, transportation worker, postman, mechanic, or appliance repairman with business on Campobello would need a passport, an $87 (Canadian) expense for an adult. “Islanders would need a passport for virtually everything they did,” he adds.

Tighter border controls are already causing headaches. Delays are rare on the quiet Lubec-Campobello bridge, but they can run two or three hours at the Calais-St. Stephen crossing, which islanders must pass to access the rest of their country. Mechanics, repairmen and contractors coming to perform work on Campobello are often delayed and occasionally blocked at Calais from because their tools cause customs officials concern.

Earlier this year, an islander was bounced back and forth between the U.S. and Canadian customs posts on each side of the Campobello bridge, because neither side would let him enter the country with a bag of dog food purchased at Lubec’s supermarket, 500 yards away. (Beef products can’t cross due to concerns about mad cow disease.)

“The other day on the U.S. side they stopped a guy who had a hotdog and made him stop eating it and throw it away at the border,” says Hooper. “That doesn’t make much sense when you realize that the garbage truck that collects our trash takes it…over to the transfer station in Marion Township, Maine, hot dogs and all.”

Indeed, the region’s interconnected waste disposal system does make the beef ban look a bit silly. About 15 percent of Campobello’s garbage is handled the way Hooper describes, according to the general manager of the Southwest Solid Waste Commission, Dan Harrington; that waste — along with a good chunk of Washington County’s — later gets re-exported back to mainland New Brunswick for final disposal. The other 85 percent of the island’s garbage is trucked straight through without stopping in Marion.

In July and August Campobello’s residents can drive down a gravel beach and onto a tiny car ferry that takes them over to Deer Island, N.B., an island with even fewer services. But a ten-mile drive to the opposite end of Deer Island affords access to a second ferry that can take them to Letete, a tiny fishing village on the Canadian mainland. Total travel time, if they make all of their connections: an hour and a half. Outside of those months, one would need their own boat travel directly to mainland Canada, but the fuel costs and travel time make that impractical.

To alleviate the island’s problems, Allaby is pushing the provincial government to establish a year-round ferry for the island. “If there is another terrorist attack and the borders are closed, that constitutes an emergency for Campobello,” he says. “There has to be a Canada-to-Canada linkage.”

Year-round employment is scarce on the island. Some work on the sturdy fishing vessels that tie up at the wharves at Head Harbor and Wilson’s Beach, while others tend salmon raised in great floating pens in various coves. Many, however, count on summer tourism, which has fallen significantly since 2001, a trend that is expected to get worse once passports are required to cross back into Maine.

Visits to the island’s top destination — the 34-room “cottage” where Franklin D. Roosevelt spent his summers — have already fallen by over 20 percent since 9/11, according to Pauline Alexander, an employee of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, which is jointly operated by the U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada.

“I think it’s because people are afraid of the border,” says Alexander, a lifelong resident of the island. “But I don’t worry myself. With everything that’s going on in the world today, I’m just happy for the simple, sheltered life I have on Campobello.”

Colin Woodard is the author of The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier. He lives in Portland. His website is at