Kitchener-Waterloo

Snowbirds living at Waterloo RV park search for temporary winter homes

As the weather turns colder, Canadian snowbirds traditionally start to think of making the move south. The pandemic has changed the plans of more than 200 people living at a recreational vehicle park in Waterloo.

Green Acre Park is seasonal and zoning bylaws don't allow it to stay open during winter

Snowbirds at Green Acre Park in Waterloo hope the owner of the park and the City of Waterloo will allow them to stay at their seasonal homes during the months of January and February. (www.greenacrepark.com)

Canadian snowbirds living at a recreational vehicle park in Waterloo are in limbo.

Normally the winter sun chasers would be headed south for the winter, but COVID-19 has changed their plans.

Now, more than 200 residents need to find a place to live as the Canada-U.S border remains closed and the park they live in, Green Acre Park in Waterloo, is closed for the months of January and February.

Davey Malley is one of those now searching for a place to stay for those two months.

"Myself and most of the other individuals in the park are seniors, retired people, snowbirds and a lot of them have underlying [health] conditions," said Malley.

"My wife has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other issues that she's dealing with. And if we could stay for the two months, January and February in the park ... [we] would feel a lot better about the whole situation." 

Zoning bylaw prohibits year-round occupancy

Green Acre Park is in Waterloo's Ward 3 and the city councillor for the area is Angela Vieth. She says the park is not zoned for year-round residential use. The zoning rules state the park needs to be closed for "at least 60 continuous days between October 31 and April 30 of the following year."

"The zoning bylaw doesn't permit year-round occupancy because the trailers do not meet building code standards, for instance, if a trailer caught on fire in January or February, " said Vieth.

"I don't feel like we should put the rest of the taxpayers on the hook if something goes wrong."

The park has always been a seasonal recreational trailer park since it was opened by Bruce Martin's father in 1974. 

It has 265 sites and the park is open March to December. Green Acre Park also operates 90 overnight sites between May and October.

The permanent trailers housing the 200 or so snowbirds are winterized with running water that includes insulation around the water pipes, those living there say.

Phil and Maggie Caskanette are snowbirds living at Green Acre Park in Waterloo. Maggie says they wanted to spend their senior years travelling. The pandemic has meant they changed their winter plans and will be moving into an airbnb in Kitchener. (Submitted by Maggie Caskanette)

But current owner Bruce Martin says he doesn't want to turn the location into a year-round permanent residence.

"For our customers that are here, it's an easy kind of, 'Well, why wouldn't we consider this?'" said Martin. 

"But if you talk to the building department, zoning people at the City of Waterloo, fire departments, people that have a career or an interest in public safety, structurally infrastructure, zoning, those kind of things, it's not as easy."

Additional costs to rent

Finding a place to stay for two month in the region hasn't been easy for some of the retirees who say they're looking at an added cost for rentals.

Maggie Caskanette said she and her husband were able to find a suitable spot for them through AirBnB.

"There are some hotels pretty local to the park, but they're like $3,000 a month. And that's just way out of our budget," said Caskanette.

"Fortunately for us, we found an apartment that was about $1,200 a month. So that will do us. But there are a lot of people here who still don't have anywhere to go."

Caskanette says many residents are holding out hope the owner and city will change their minds.

A group of people at the park has also reached out to the provincial government hoping they'll intervene.

As the weather turns colder, Canadian snowbirds start to think of making the move south. The pandemic has changed their plans. A group of snowbirds living at a Recreational vehicle park in Waterloo are hoping to stay. But the park vacates in January and February. 7:29

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Joe Pavia

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Joe Pavia is a Reporter/Editor with CBC K-W 89.1 FM. He's normally heard weekdays on The Morning Edition but also covers a wide range of news and feature stories for both radio and web. If you have a story idea, email Joe at Joseph.Pavia@cbc.ca Follow him on twitter @PaviaJoe1964

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