A plan to reclaim Woodlawn Regional Park from the ravages of the floods of 2011 has been set.
Woodlawn's board has created a tentative and comprehensive plan that includes rebuilding the main camping area and creating 70 new sites on the land that once housed the local chuckwagon track. Work on the massive reclamation project is scheduled to begin in the fall, with an eye towards being ready for the 2013 season.
Woodlawn manager Nathan Puffalt said the plan has been in the works for the past few months and he feels they have come up with a solution that makes the best of a bad situation.
"Since the season started, we have been in and out of the main area looking at the best possible solution to fixing up the sites and creating sites that campers nowadays can get into," he said.
"It's been a long working process, but we wanted to make sure we got it right before we went in there and started getting the work done."
Puffalt said when creating the plan, specifically the design for the main campground area, they had to work around the landscape changes created by last year's flood. Roughly 40 sites were lost when the raging river swallowed up a section of the park. As well, when the water finally receded, a massive pile of silt was left behind which created additional challenges.
"There was 10 feet of silt in some areas that had to levelled off, but it ended up being almost a blessing because we were able to reclaim some areas you normally wouldn't be able to camp in."
Although they lost a large piece of land, Puffalt said their plan still calls for 90 sites in that area.
"They will have water and electricity in 2013 and as we go ahead we will slowly bring sewer in," he said. "There will be 20 to 40 tent sites which will have water and electricity as well, kind of every five or so tent sites, there will be a pedestal where people can plug into it."
When designing the layout of the campground Puffalt said they went with bigger sites to accommodate large campers and leave people with enough room to still enjoy their area.
"The new sites, we have designed them at 30 feet by 80 feet. Plenty of room to get there awning out, have a picnic table, a firepit area and they'll be able to get some cars parked in their too. We also wanted to have a large tenting area and use the corners as group site areas."
In addition to the sites in the original campground area, the plan calls for the creation of 70 new sites on the old chuckwagon track, a move that has been bandied about for years but became a necessity due to the flooding. Puffalt said they will also be larger sites to allow for larger, fifth-wheel style campers.
Other new features include the addition of up to 10 lots for cabins; walking trails and a bird sanctuary in the area behind Cossette Park, the soccer field, a group use area and picnic area (see map for exact locations).
Obviously tackling a project of this magnitude requires a significant amount of work and money.
Puffalt said they have been helped along by the fact that most of the buildings in the campground are salvageable. The only one currently in question is the concession.
"But all the electrical was completely destroyed," he added. "We are going to be putting in new waterlines. The pedestals in case, god forbid, a flood happens again, they are quite a bit higher and any new buildings that we put in are going to be on skids. All of the area is now levelled off. We are going to have our contractor in on Monday to start trenching in water and electricity. The sites are marked out and there will be a few dead trees that we have to move and trees to plant. With something like this, when you want to do the big sites, there is going to be some tree loss. But with the plan we have come up with, it's going to be minimal. Woodlawn is known for its trees."
As for a cost, Puffalt said Woodlawn received a $2.4 million settlement from the Provincial Disaster Assistance Plan. He said that is well below what they were hoping to get and will be stretched thin as the work is carried out.
"We could have used a lot more, but I guess that is the story everywhere," he said.
The sites in the main camping area will be ready for 2013, Puffalt said, and work on the sites on the chuckwagon track will begin next year and as they are ready, they will be rented out to campers.
Puffalt said work is also continuing on reclaiming both Rotary Hall and Doug Third Hall and he expects them to be ready for 2013 as well.
"Both buildings were completely salvageable, we just have to completely strip them and sanitize them. A new kitchen facility will be added to Doug Third Hall and a kitchen will be put back into Rotary Hall.
Puffalt added they have also been busy at their Boundary Dam site. They added 28 sites this year, giving them 48 seasonal sites and 55 short-term sites. They have more land they would like to convert into sites and a possible tenting area. As well, the former Get the Scoop ice cream shop building is now being used as their gate house and a concession will be opened in the future. They also recently completed a waterline coming off the City of Estevan service, giving them potable water for all of the campsites in 2013.