P.E.I. campers left ‘vulnerable’ by Arthur, says tourism operator

TC Media newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on July 8, 2014

Tourism operator Bob Boyle, who also serves as chairman of a tourism partnership that represents 700 other operators, said Monday that emergency shelters could have been set up during tropical storm Arthur for people whose only home on Saturday was a tent.

A prominent tourism operator on the Island’s north shore says tenters should have been offered shelter on the weekend.

Bob Boyle, who runs a drive-in and hotel in Brackley and is chairman of the Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, says alternative accommodations like shelters could have been offered to those staying in a tent as post tropical storm Arthur slammed into P.E.I.

“These people were vulnerable,’’ Boyle said Monday.

Campgrounds were packed and hotels were full as thousands of tourists descended on the province this weekend for the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. Saturday’s concert was cancelled due to the storm. Winds in Charlottetown peaked over 100 km/h, not the greatest weather to be stuck in a tent.

Boyle said his seven hotel rooms sold out when the concerts were announced late last year. He said people who booked those rooms took in friends who were supposed to camp out in tents elsewhere.

“When I got to bed (Saturday) night I started to think about it. If everything is full where do tenters go? I thought maybe somebody could do a better job there.’’

Boyle added that a lot of tenters would have been students or young adults that can’t exactly afford the cost of hotel rooms at this time of year — on top of the cost of concert tickets and everything else.

“We’ve got thousands of people here on the Island that are vulnerable. We’ve invited them here to the Island,’’ he said, in reference to the music festival. “As hosts, we should have some sort of responsibility there.’’

Boyle said he had a number of trees fall in the wind, proving that tenting in a campground with trees wouldn’t be the safest place to be.

Boyle said when he lived in Florida, shelters were always set up and open when tropical storms hit.

The Guardian talked with one couple who tented on the weekend but didn’t want to do an interview. They did say their tent was destroyed in the wind Saturday and that they scrambled to find alternative accommodations.

Laura Montigny, provincial director for the Canadian Red Cross, said there was a plan in place but that it’s the responsibility of each municipality to put in into action.

“We worked closely with the joint Emergency Operations Centre. They were also communicating out weather updates,’’ Montigny said. “All of our volunteers across Atlantic Canada were on standby.’’

She said there were some shelters set up in New Brunswick.

“We have a list of shelters across the Island that we could use,’’ Montigny said, referring to various community halls, schools and arenas. “It’s the municipalities’ responsibility to push that button.’’

Private campground business owners would be responsible for their own customers. None of messages left at various campgrounds by The Guardian were returned immediately.

Montigny said there was also an informal plan in place, if need be, to set up a command post at Lake of Shining Waters in Cavendish to handle things in the area.

Matthew Jelley, former president of the Cavendish Beach and Dunes Shores Tourism Association and current owner of Lake of Shining Waters, said he didn’t think the need was there to open shelters.

Jelley added that there is a personal responsibility at play, too. The storm was forecast days ahead of time and hit exactly as meteorologists had predicted.

Boyle said it all makes him wonder how bad things have to get before shelters are at least offered to tenters.

“If this wasn’t bad enough, then what is?’’ Boyle said.