Border restrictions force couple to visit with new grandson at Peace Arch

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Blaine residents John and Sharon Andes recently visited with their new grandson in the Peace Arch park, following new border restrictions that prevented them from crossing into Canada, where the baby was born and lives with his parents.

The new baby, Stephen Cyrus Waldner, was born on March 15 and weighed six pounds and five ounces. The baby was born at Langley Memorial Hospital to the Andes’ daughter and son-in-law, Victoria and John Waldner, who live in Cloverdale.

New grandmother Sharon Andes said that due to the new border restrictions that went into effect on March 21, she and her husband had no other option but to visit with the baby and his parents in the “free zone” of the Peace Arch park, where Canadians and Americans can gather without border-crossing formalities. The park is known as Peace Arch State Park in Washington and Peace Arch Provincial Park in B.C.

“My husband John spoke to a border guard prior to the meeting,” Sharon said. “He drove into the park and he spoke to that border guard, who said that the park is considered a free zone, which I didn’t know.”

So on March 21, the same day the new border restrictions went into effect, grandparents John and Sharon parked on the U.S. side of the park, while their daughter, son-in-law and grandson parked on the Canadian side. They then met in the park and spent about half an hour together, chatting and taking photos.

“We’re going to have to do this until the restrictions are lifted,” Sharon said. “We plan to do this a few times a week.” They were worried about the potential closure of state parks, which would make in-person visits with their grandson totally impossible. (On March 25, all state-managed parks, wildlife areas and water-access areas were closed for at least two weeks in response to a stay-home order by governor Jay Inslee.)

Sharon said that the family was also impacted by new hospital restrictions, which went into effect the day the baby was born and limited the number of visitors to two. Only she and her son-in-law could visit the newborn that day. John was refused access to the hospital, and only met the baby for the first time on March 17 when the baby came home.

Sharon said this ordeal will make it difficult to assist her daughter with caring for the new infant, but she was hopeful that the situation would soon return to normal.

“This has obviously been a very difficult time,” Sharon said, “but we have been given this little gift during this time and moments together are precious.”

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