Cancer diagnosis, heart attack force Dutrisac Cottages' owner to close campground
‘Sometimes you have to be wise enough to say enough is enough': park owner Mike Stevens
Dutrisac Cottages will be shutting down next year, leaving many families — some of whom have been visiting the campground for generations — without a summer getaway spot.
The park's owner, Mike Stevens, said two factors influenced his decision.
One, Ontario's Ministry of the Environment deemed the campground's lagoon-based sewage system as not up to code. Repairing it, Stevens said, would cost around $500,000.
"The [Wynne] government has decided that lagoons are no longer legal to use," Stevens said. "For me to put in a new water system I'm looking at over $500,000, or maybe more. Maybe over $1 million."
The other factor — and most importantly — was his own health.
"I had cancer for 18 years but it's growing again," Stevens said.
"I have trouble walking, my hips are bad and I have cancer. Every day is going to be struggle."
After working 49 years in the park, Stevens said "sometimes you have to be wise enough to say enough is enough."
The 62-year-old said he knew eventually he'd have to sell the park, or close it. His doctors told him the cancer was a "stress cancer" but the idea of leaving so many loyal customers, and a trusted staff would be difficult.
"My customers were the best customers is the world. They've stood by me all these years, and they'll stand by me now," he said.
"My staff have been working for me for twenty plus years. But they've seen my health deteriorate. Me having trouble walking, trouble eating. It's been too much for me."
News broken Monday morning
News about the camp's closure was delivered Monday morning by Stevens himself. He said he wanted to make sure his staff and customers were informed before the news got out.
Despite keeping it close to home, Stevens said rumours have been swirling.
"There are so many stories going around and false accusations, but that's to be expected," he said. "Some people are saying I'm going bankrupt, I've lost all the land. But none of that is true. I'm keeping the land. The land's mine until I decide what I want to do with it. And I know people are upset."
Stevens said the challenge is to now make sure his customers have time to find other accommodations for their trailers.
"First thing to concentrate on is to get my customers to find other places," he said. "I'm not putting a deadline on that. Many of them don't have room at their homes to put a trailer."
Stevens says he'll miss the campground's camaraderie, but doesn't plan on letting any friendships he made over the years be lost.
"It's very regretful that we have to close. But after 49 years it's my turn to rest."