In Stage Two of reopening, Port Stanley, Ont. seeing a tourism revitalization
The Port Stanley Terminal Rail (PTSR) pulls into the station for its first weekend of the season, a sure sign that tourism season has arrived in the Lake Erie village.
"It's great to be back, it's been a long 18 months," says Dan Vernackt, president of the PTSR, who is now doing runs for the first time since December 2019.
The train began doing runs to St. Thomas on Canada Day with limited capacity.
"We allowing 30 people per train, and are encouraging people to do online booking so we know who is coming," says Vernackt.
All runs are sold out for the weekend, and boarding the first one Saturday was Kota Nayak who came from the GTA with two other families to rent cottages this weekend.
"It's a great experience for us and is a wonderful thing after the lockdown," says Nayak.
"We have never rode the train, and the kids wanted to do it, so it's really nice to be in Phase 2, and we are enjoying it."
The Smokin’ Bass Band at the Port Stanley Legion (Brent Lale/CTV London)
Next door at the Port Stanley Legion, they had live music for the first time this year. It brought a welcomed ambiance to the village.
"It's been since last February, so we are beyond ecstatic to be out playing in front of people," says Meg McTaggart, singer of the Smokin' Bass Band.
"The morale of the village instantly spikes when you get a great day like today, with live music, so it's great".
Up until stage two of Ontario's reopening plan, the only tourists were those heading to the beach, and maybe grabbing takeout.
With restrictions starting to lift, the small business on the east side of the village are seeing increased foot traffic.
"Everyone is coming out," says Sara Lockhart, owner of Art & Soul.
"People were previously staying in and staying safe but we are doing a lot more business now. We are selling a lot of art, which we haven't sold in a while".
Jean Vedova, owner of the Kettle Creek Inn is happy to see tourism rising in Stage 2 (Brent Lale/CTV London)
At one of the few places to stay overnight in the village, Jean Vedova says she's receiving more phone calls every day.
"Our accommodation sector has been doing well, which thank heavens helps to pay the bills," says Vedova, owner of Kettle Creek Inn.
"As far as dining is concerned, with weather gods not co-operating and Mr (Doug) Ford not bringing in Stage 3 quick enough, I have a difficult time being able to accommodate the people I should be able to accommodate for dining. When we are allowed to do indoor dining, tourism in Port Stanley will be looking much healthier".
Even though the village is starting to bounce back, peak tourism this year will ultimately rely on two things. The first being the province moving into Stage 3, the second being the lift bridge eventually opening.