In Prince Edward Island (Canada), Crystal Beach Campground, a once-popular destination along the North Shore, has announced its permanent closure. This decision comes in the wake of the extensive damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona, which has left the campground in a state of disrepair.
Owner Matthew Wedge, who has been at the helm of the campground for over two decades, made this difficult decision after a year-long struggle to salvage his business.
The storm’s aftermath left the campground with damages estimated at CA$500,000, a cost Wedge’s insurance provider has refused to cover. The lack of financial support extends beyond insurance, as Wedge’s applications for government assistance programs were also denied.
The closure of Crystal Beach Campground is not just a business loss but also a personal one for Wedge. He shared his feelings of helplessness and disappointment, stating, “You can’t keep cleaning up after storms if you’re not getting any funding… I was holding out for that last-minute miracle to happen. But it didn’t happen.” The emotional weight of the decision is compounded by the campground’s sentimental value, named in memory of his sister, Crystal, who passed away in 1988.
This is not the first time the campground has faced nature’s fury. In 2019, post-tropical storm Dorian also wreaked havoc, causing significant damage. Unlike Fiona, most of the Dorian-related damages were covered by insurance. However, the Fiona-induced destruction, primarily attributed to storm surge, fell outside the purview of his insurance coverage.
Wedge detailed the extent of the damage, noting that the storm surge lifted and destroyed key structures like the splash pad and pool deck, causing them to crash into the washroom and recreation center. The damage extended to the campground’s buildings, equipment, and critical systems, including electrical and septic systems.
The decision to close has broader implications for the campground and outdoor hospitality industry in P.E.I. It underscores the vulnerability of such businesses to extreme weather events and the challenges in securing adequate insurance and disaster relief funding. Wedge’s experience highlights a growing concern among campground owners about the sustainability of their operations in the face of increasing climate-related risks.
The P.E.I. government’s disaster assistance program, administered by the Canadian Red Cross, deemed Wedge’s business ineligible for funding. Similarly, the federal Hurricane Fiona Recovery Fund agreed to cover only the cleanup costs, not the rebuilding expenses. This decision was influenced by the property’s history of storm damage and the uncertain future of similar events.
Wedge’s situation is a stark reminder of the precarious nature of the outdoor hospitality industry, particularly in areas prone to severe weather. The lack of comprehensive insurance coverage for specific natural disasters like storm surges poses a significant risk to the viability of these businesses.
The future of the Crystal Beach Campground property remains uncertain. Wedge is open to the idea of selling it, but he acknowledges the challenges due to its history of storm damage. This uncertainty extends to the broader campground industry in P.E.I., as operators grapple with the realities of climate change and its impact on their businesses.