PEI

'Failure is not an option': Dorian damage won't discourage campground owner from reopening

The owner of Crystal Beach Campground on P.E.I.'s North Shore says he expects to be back in business next season, but he'll be taking steps to be better prepared in case another storm like Dorian hits the region.

Matthew Wedge says he'll have evacuation policies in place to be better prepared for storms

Workers have been busy clearing debris and trees from Crystal Beach Campground. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The owner of Crystal Beach Campground on P.E.I.'s North Shore says he expects to be back in business next season, but he'll be taking steps to be better prepared in case another storm like Dorian hits the region.

The campground was heavily damaged and many trailers were destroyed after the post-tropical storm on Sept. 7.

Matthew Wedge said volunteers are making progress getting the campground cleaned up.

"We've had a lot of people volunteering, helping out, people that are seasonal at the campground, people who camp at the campground, family, friends, we've had people dropping coffee off, food off," he said.

"It's been a really great response, overwhelming I guess as a business owner just to see how nice and how generous people are."

The high winds whipping through the campground toppled a number of giant trees that fell onto trailers. Branches needed to be trimmed and fallen trees removed.

Workers said it's slow, meticulous work.

"We start at the top take the branches from the top and take part of the tree at the top slowly to let the weight come off the actual trunk, and then slowly the tree is going to go back where it once used to be," said Pierre Beauchamp. "That way it will go upright and then we can finish cutting it off."

Matthew Wedge says he plans to be open next season for his 21st year at the campground. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Wedge said much of the debris has been picked up and they are determining what infrastructure can be salvaged.

"The cosmetics anyway are looking better. The guts of the operation are still a mess. But it certainly looks better," he said.

"I think it's a good thing that I've always been a patient guy," he said. "My staff are patient people as well. Everyone understands the magnitude of this and safety is always at the forefront, so yeah, we're being a bit more meticulous in the cleanup."

The shoreline at the campground was hit hard during the storm and will likely require a coastal engineer to repair.

"We've taken steps over the years to protect our shoreline, it's very valuable to us and our business. People come here to enjoy the views, to sit out on their lawn chairs and watch the birds and watch the sunset right over the bay," Wedge said.

"Thankfully, that nature hasn't changed. You can still look out and see all that stuff, but the destruction it caused the coastline is certainly going to be very costly for us to repair."

Pierre Beauchamp saws a tree at the campground. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Wedge said to protect the property and his customers, he will be adding a possible evacuation provision to the campground rules and regulations in the event of another storm of Dorian's magnitude.

"Hopefully it's one of those things once in a century and hopefully we never see something to that magnitude again. But you always have to accept the chance that we will," he said.

"We'll certainly be working with the customer to keep them informed when storms are coming and to have an evacuation plan if it gets to that point."

Wedge hopes insurance and the province's disaster assistance program will cover the cost of the extensive damages. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Wedge said he is hoping insurance and the province's disaster assistance program will cover the cost of repairs. The provincial Green Party criticized government for attaching a $1,000 deductible to the assistance program, but Wedge said that was to be expected.

"That's certainly the least of my worries."

Wedge says he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of volunteers who have been cleaning up Crystal Beach Campground. (Submitted by Matthew Wedge)

Wedge said if all goes as planned with funding — and finding tradespeople to do the big repairs — he'll be open again next spring for his 21st season.

"There is a ton a work to be done and we're just taking it one day at a time, that's all we can do," Wedge said. "As Islanders we're resilient people and failure is not an option, so we're just going to keep continuing on and getting things that need to be done so we can open next year."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Meader and Tom Steepe

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