CHIPPEWA BAY Canadian Sen. Robert W. Runciman is pushing for Singer Castles designation as a seasonal port of entry to boost tourism along the St. Lawrence River and create more jobs in the north country.
The castle, a century-old grand mansion turned into a tourist attraction, sits on Dark Island in the heart of the Thousand Islands and was used as the setting for the unaired pilot episode of TNTs new reality TV competition show, The Great Escape.
The castles potential to become a major tourism draw in the Thousand Islands has never been realized as Canadian tour boat operators are prohibited from travelling directly from a Canadian port to Dark Island, Mr. Runciman, Brockville, Ontario, said in a recent letter to U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer.
Canadian boat operators have to make a detour to Heart Island for customs clearance, he said, which adds more than an hour to a trip to Singer Castle.
It should be an open border as far as tourism goes, said Thomas A. Weldon, general manager of Singer Castle.
Attendance at the castle averages about 22,000 visitors a year. But if Canadian travelers could clear U.S. Customs on Dark Island, Mr. Weldon said, the annual attendance could jump to 40,000 visitors.
Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, also is assisting Sen. Runcimans office in looking into the matter.
Congressman Owens is preparing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to solicit their input on the value, cost and feasibility of this initiative. In general, the congressman is eager to investigate any opportunities to promote tourism and economic development between the U.S. and Canada, and stands ready to assist the community in any way that he can, Jon Boughtin, a spokesman for Mr. Owens, said in an email Thursday.
Currently, Singer Castle has only 26 employees, but increased visitation at the landmark would lead to more job opportunities in the area as well, Mr. Runciman said.
Designation of the island as a port of entry would undoubtedly enhance business opportunities for Canadian tour operators, but it would also significantly improve the bottom line for the operators of Singer Castle and enable them to make investments to ensure not only the continued operation of the castle, but also its evolution into a significant international tourism draw, he said.
Although the 2012 tourism season is winding down, guided tours of the castle are still available on weekends and by appointment through Oct. 7. Singer Castles royal suite will be available until Nov. 1.