September 3, 2013

Vermont campgrounds wrap up strong season

Two years after Irene, the industry is doing well.

The Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Two years after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont's campgrounds are finishing a good season, with some of the areas damaged by the storm back in business and doing well but others that will never reopen.

Only a handful of campgrounds sustained significant damage during Irene, but many lost business in the immediate aftermath of the Aug. 28, 2011, storm because potential customers believed much of Vermont was inaccessible, said Peter Daniels, executive director of the state Campground Association.

Now, two years after Irene, the campground industry is doing well, Daniels said.

"The season got off to a slow start. But they've had a real good season. Everybody was expecting to have a full house on Labor Day weekend," he said.

Some of the campgrounds hardest hit by Irene, which dumped up to 11 inches of rain on parts of the state, are located along the banks of Vermont's rivers and streams, areas favored by campers looking for the idyllic outdoor experience but also most prone to flood damage.

The campground association is made up of about 70 campgrounds, including the Vermont State Parks. They total about 9,000 campsites.

Only a handful sustained significant damage, but at least two were forced out of business by the storm, Daniels said.

One post-Irene success story is Abel Mountain campground in Braintree, located on the bank of the third branch of the White River.

Karen Colby, who runs Abel Mountain with her husband, Paul Rae Colby, says their 132-site campground was destroyed by Irene. After months of hard work, they reopened in the summer of 2012. Now they're finishing a good season.

The Colbys bought what Karen described as a dilapidated campground 10 years ago, and spent years rebuilding it before Irene washed away the entire campground.

"So we had to do it all over again. What we did in seven years, we did in a year's time," she said.

All the power and sewer lines had to be dug up and replaced. And there was concern customers wouldn't realize the campground was coming back.

"We had a lot of support. We have a really loyal customer base," she said.

They're also preparing for the next flood. The bathhouse is built on a mobile home frame. Other buildings are located on skids, so it will be theoretically possible to move them out of the way if another flood is thought to be bearing down on them.

"Last year was pretty emotional," Karen Colby said. "I think we are now on edge. You know, it's something we will never ever forget."


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