Campground back in full operation

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Black Diamond merchants are hopeful they will see a more profitable summer now that the community campground will be back in full operation next month after years of repairs.

For the first time since the 2013 flood, the Foothills Lions Club is opening every campsite in the Bob Lochhead Memorial Park campground in Black Diamond to users after club members spent the last three years reviving its main attraction.

The campground’s land, buildings, trees, picnic tables and fire pits were washed away when the flooded Sheep River swept through the campground almost three years ago.

Country Food Mart owner Mark Muller said his business will benefit from the milestone moment.

“It will be great for us, it will be great for the town” said Muller last week. “We definitely see people wander over here from the campground. We are very excited about a busy summer.”

Foothills Lions Club members began repairing the south portion of the campground in 2014, opening a few sites to users later in the season. Work continued over the next several months allowed the club to open 27 full service sites and a tenting area on the southern portion for the entire 2015 season.

Repairs continued over the last several months as Foothills Lions Club volunteers paved roads, planted trees and grass seed, upgraded the garage roof, installed new signs and added picnic tables, fire pits, planters and benches to prepare the most damaged northern portion for opening this season.

Now the campground will have 52 trailer sites, down from 64 before the flood.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to make this a first-class camping experience for everybody,” said James Lee, chairman of the Foothills Lions Club reconstruction committee.

“There’s bigger sites for trailers so people can spread out a little bit more. We can take a greater number of the bigger trailer units now.”

The Foothills Lions Club installed $260,000 worth of electricity, bringing its sites up to a 110 amp capacity with 42 sites featuring 15, 30 and 50 amp outlets, said Lee. The club is paying for $110,000 and the remainder was covered by insurance.

Lee said the club spent another $30,000 to purchase a tool shed, office, picnic tables, fire rings and new signage.

Projects not yet complete include creating a western boomtown motif, porch and deck on the office, moving some of the trees and planting 15 new trees at the north end of the campground, he said.

“We are in discussion about building a memorial tree garden so that people can actually buy a tree in memory of a loved one and we will put a nice bronze plaque in front of the tree and look after it,” he said

Lee said the campground will be ready to open on May 1.

“It’s coming,” he said. “It’s a big job. I’ll be glad when it’s over. It’s been a long process.”

Lee said they have already received bookings from many seasonal campers, who take up about 40 per cent of the campground, and others are starting to come in.

“There were a lot of campsites that were destroyed as a result of the flood that have not reopened so I think the demand is going to be there,” he said. “There is going to be more traffic and more shoppers. We are going to flourish a little bit as a result of that.”

Profits made from the campground go to various community initiatives. The club contributes about $60,000 to $80,000 to the region each year.

Lee said donations to the community have dropped by half after the flood, but added it’s been slowly climbing the last two years.

“We try not to turn anybody down,” he said. “Sometimes we haven’t been able to give quite the amount we want to give or they ask for but we give them something.”

Black Diamond Mayor Sharlene Brown said she is glad to see the Bob Lochhead Memorial Park campground return to being an economic draw to the community throughout the tourist season.

“For our businesses, especially during this economic downturn, it will be a big boost,” she said. “It’s increased dollars around community.

“Supporting local business is a really important thing to keeping the community viable. Bringing tourism in is a way to do that.”

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