Campground's future uncertain
Black Diamond: Opening day depends on river work
Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 08:28 am
Avid campers who return to Black Diamond each year to enjoy the shelter of trees alongside the Sheep River will have to wait to make their reservations.
Although 24 of the 60 full service campsites are ready to go at the Foothills Lions Campground, when and if the campground opens will depend on timing for the construction of a berm along the Sheep River meant to protect the campground and surrounding area.
“We are hoping to be done by the middle of May but that will depend on how the process goes,” said Joanne Irwin, Town of Black Diamond chief administrative officer. “Even that is pushing the contractor hard. We just have to make sure we do our due diligence and we try to make sure the emergent work, which is the berm, gets built as soon as possible.”
Construction of the berm was approved for funding by the Province months ago as part of the remediation work for the community following the flooding of the Sheep River last year, but work couldn’t begin until Alberta Environment approved the project, said Irwin. The project was approved on March 26 and is now going to tender.
“We’ve been hard on this since September,” she said. “You can only move as fast as your approvals go.”
While the berm is under constructed, Irwin said it’s imperative the area is clear of residents and visitors.
“If there is going to be heavy equipment moving in and out of that area it’s going to be very dangerous,” she said. “We have to look at this as a construction site at least until that berm is built at the very lease at that end of town.”
Residents have already been told to say away from the construction zone on the west side of town as crews work on strengthening the bridge abutments.
Irwin said the Town won’t know the timeline of the project until the tender is awarded and construction begins.
James Lee, Foothills Lions Campground reconstruction chairman, said shutting down the campground the entire season could be hard on local merchants.
“For some businesses it’s a big part of their income,” he said. “This impacts not only the businesses it impacts the clients we have as the Lions Club and we don’t have the money to service all the programs that we sponsor.”
In anticipation of operating the campground at half its capacity, if it does indeed open, Lee said the club hired half of last year’s staff.
The campground has already been prepared for the season with silt, wood and debris removed, the bathrooms repaired, grass reseeded, electrical panels replaced, roads repaired and the dump station rebuilt, said Lee. He added several trees were lost in the flood and the club will purchase a new building to serve as its office, which was destroyed in the flood
“We are basically ready to go,” he said.
The $165,000 spent to bring the campground back to operation with 24 sties was covered by disaster relief funds, said Lee.
Irwin said she hopes construction will go smoothly so the campground can open soon.
The camping season for the Foothills Lions Campground typically starts on May 1.
“We totally respect the Lions Club and everything they do in our community,” she said.
With the rainy season looming, Irwin said residents are nervous with the amount of snowfall this spring and past winter, worried the community will see a repeat of last year’s flood.
“The snowpack is higher than it was this time last year,” she said. “We’re checking the website every day.”