Jefferson County lawmakers asked to back Bonnie Castle site for CBP facility

By Isabella Colello, ABC50, November 16, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, N.Y. (WWTI) — The fight to stop a massive border patrol facility on the St. Lawrence River continues.

Jefferson County legislators have been asked to back the former Bonnie Castle Recreation Center as the preferred site for a new Border Patrol facility.

Customs and Border Protection previously proposed to put a 48,000-square-foot facility in Blind Bay in the town of Orlean. Surveyors also most recently considered a site in the town of Clayton along the St. Lawrence River.

Jefferson County Legislator Phill Reed voiced his opposition to the facility going to either location.

“I’ve been a legislator for quite a while now, and I’ve really never experienced an issue where 100% of the people do not want to see more property off the tax rolls and a building such as that of a facility along the banks of the St Lawrence River,” Reed said.

At a Board of Legislators meeting on November 14, Reed and Co-Legislator Bobby Cantwell introduced a resolution to their fellow colleagues, which stated that Bonnie Castle is the preferred site for the facility.

Although the Bonnie Castle Recreation Center does not have waterfront access, Reed and Cantwell suggested that Border Patrol could launch their boats at nearby state parks. Similar to how other law enforcement agencies operate.

“We would like to offer them an opportunity to locate where there is water and sewer already at the properties already off the tax rolls,” Reed added. “So it checks a lot of boxes and we’re just looking for support to urge the Customs Border Patrol to at least consider Bonny Castle Rec Center.”

“If this commercial building is sited at the former Bonnie Castle Stables property it will not only aesthetically fit into this already commercially developed area, but it also will give the property an economic boost,” Cantwell said in a statement to ABC50. “By virtue of locating the utilities onto this property. This would be an asset to other entities that may consider this site for development.”

Similar resolutions have been signed in the towns of Alexandria, Clayton and Orleans; all areas this facility could impact.

The Bonnie Castle site has also been endorsed by local organizations Save The River and The Thousand Islands Land Trust.

“It could go on that site with no environmental consequences. It would be at the intersection of Route 81 and Route 12,” Save The River Executive Director John Peach explained. “It’s the gateway from Canada into New York State.”

The resolution proposed at the recent Board of Legislators meeting will be voted on in December or January.

Reed said the goal is to get unanimous approval to send a message to Customs and Border Protection.

“We’re not just saying not in our backyard in Jefferson County. Go somewhere else,” he expressed. “We’re saying we welcome you, but please work with us. And that’s the message we want to give.”

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