The mayor of an Ontario border city that was unwittingly visited by 1,500 wayward Americans over the weekend said he’d like them to come back someday — but this time with money, clothes and passports.
“I think we can use this to boost tourism from our neighbours,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “Come for a visit, we’ll take care of you and this time you can stay longer.”
Bradley said it cost his municipality more than $8,000 to deal with the wave of unexpected visitors who were on inflatable rafts and boats — attending the annual Port Huron Float Down — when they drifted off course Sunday due to high winds and strong currents.
But Bradley is not asking for that money back, although a fundraising campaign — started by an American — had raised more than US$2,300 by Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it’s a wonderful gesture,” Bradley said. “The City of Sarnia can survive — our budget is over $130 million a year and we can absorb these costs — but the gesture that they appreciate what happened is important and welcomed.”
In a press release, the city broke down the costs from the incursion, including $1,977.97 to Sarnia Transit for providing ten buses, drivers, and supervisory staff to take the Americans across the border.
The costs do not include those incurred by agencies outside the city, which included efforts by Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Bradley, who watched the Americans float down the St. Clair River from his apartment, said many of the visitors were “over-refreshed” and chanting “USA, USA” as they washed ashore. The revellers left a mess in their wake.
On Monday, city workers spent several hours picking up trash — beer cans, coolers, rafts and even picnic tables.
The mayor said he would use any funds raised by the campaign to celebrate cross-border relations, but he would not ask the Americans to pay back his city for the trouble.
“Even if we wanted to ask someone to pay us back, there is no one to ask, there is no organizer and it’s not an official event,” Bradley said.
But he remains proud of how everything went down.
“Everyone who responded — police, fire, and the coast guard — took the right approach,” Bradley said.