Despite the surge in interest in camping that occurred during the pandemic as people from quarantine were desperate to find outdoor recreation, many potential campground owners could not quickly open new properties to satisfy the growing demand. Such is not the case for business partners Brad Cartier and Aaron Markel who opened a campground recently, a report said.
Alexandra Anderson, the Executive Director of Camping in Ontario says it is extremely difficult to start a campground. The organization has around 400 campgrounds in the province. It is difficult to get approvals from multiple levels of government and conservation authorities, convince utilities to extend service to remote locations, and secure loans from banks that are reluctant to finance seasonal tourism businesses.
When they created Hammond Hill campground, Brad Cartier and Aaron Markel, his business partner, were well aware of many of these issues. They had many advantages when they developed the property of 62 acres, located about 20 minutes from Orleans.
First, the land, which was leased to the partners by Leonard Gendron (owner of adjacent Hammond Golf and Country Club), was already zoned for tourism. The City of Clarence Rockland supported the project. They were able to do it because of Cartier’s experience in real estate development, and Markel’s construction background.
Finally, they had a group of around a dozen skilled individuals who were eager to get started.
The project was completed in four months. However, there were significant changes.
They didn’t intend to build a campground when they started. They wanted to build a small collection of off-the-grid cabins with premium rental rates.
Construction of the cabins took longer due to difficulties in sourcing windows and other supplies during the pandemic. In the meantime, they set up campsites and a few yurts. These can be rented for as low as $40 per night.
The partners built their homes using materials that were available on the site. To transform the few trees they had cut into fence rails and yurt foundations as well as wood chips for trails, they purchased a small sawmill. Other eco-friendly options include no-kill insect spray and a Japanese method for treating wood that is chemical-free.
Hammond Hill has an interesting campground attraction: a beer garden that serves beers from Markel’s Broken Stick Brewing Company. It is located on the adjacent golf course. The license for the craft brewery extends to the entire campground because they are all located on the same property.
Campers can enjoy casual meals like pizza and paninis at the beer garden. Cartier stated that campers can go to the [golf club’s] restaurant 30 seconds away if they wish for a more formal meal.
According to the partners, they have seen a steady stream of bookings and received many inquiries about weddings (plans are underway for a chapel). They intend to continue building the property in stages so it will eventually include at least 10 yurts and 30 pioneer-themed cabins as well as 50 solar-powered, higher-end cabins.
The partners hope to host historical and environmental workshops in the future. This will make the site more than just a place for tents. Cartier says, “We want it just sort of an immersive experience, where people are able to come and do many different things.”