By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A proposal to open the Wild Horse border crossing 24 hours a day got a thumbs up from business and political leaders in Medicine Hat on Friday. Havre Mayor Bob Rice and members of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce initiated the meeting and presented the proposal, which local supporters say was welcomed with "open arms."
"It was received very well," Chuck Wimmer, president of the Havre chamber, said today. "The Medicine Hat officials have already begun talking to their government about the border proposal. They're all for it."
"I was very pleased to hear the proposal from Mayor Rice and his delegates and happy the response from our side was so positive," Medicine Hat Mayor Garth Vallely said in a press release. "It is another indicator of the good relations between northern Montana and southern Alberta."
The Wild Horse border crossing is currently open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer months and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. The next closest 24-hour border crossing is a 125-mile drive to Sweet Grass.
Wimmer said opening the border 24 hours a day would help boost economic development and growth in Havre and north-central Montana.
"Anything that can increase the traffic in and out of Havre would be a real bonus for the community," Wimmer said. "It's a two-way street. (A total of) 3.2 million Canadians live in Alberta, so there's definitely a need for another 24-hour border crossing in the area."
Bow Island Mayor Alan Hyland echoed Wimmer's remarks in a press release. "This was tried 17 or 18 years ago and we had people on both sides of the table today who remember that," he added. "Now it's time to do this and go forward."
The initiative will require input and support by the federal governments of both Canada and the United States before it becomes a reality.
"We're trying to generate public support," Wimmer said. "We need letters of support from the public, city officials and our legislative leaders. If we don't have local support, we're not going to get anywhere with this initiative."
Wimmer said he hopes to line up community and state support, so the initiative can move on to the federal level. City officials on both sides of the border plan to meet again in late July to discuss the issue. But a decision by the federal governments on the matter isn't expected anytime soon.
"We'd love to have the border crossing open 24 hours today," Wimmer said. "Unfortunately, it just can't happen that fast. This could take years of work."