Campground proponents push family atmosphere

Andrew Robinson
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More than 50 people attended a public meeting at St. John’s City Hall to discuss an application to develop a park and campground on Blackhead Road. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

The proponents of a controversial park and campground development opposed by many residents of the Blackhead area of St. John’s say their intention is to simply operate a business that emphasizes family over wild partying.

“We just thought of it as an open opportunity to develop a place that is super family friendly and most importantly ... to have an environment where the party atmosphere isn’t (welcome),” said Bob Smith.

Smith and Dave Francis are the minds behind the proposed park and campground, which would include 38 spaces for RVs and 143 for tents and small trailers. It would also feature a multi-purpose building, a greenhouse, a small barn with animals, and circular tents known as ‘yurts’ built with steel and wood.

The two men, both of whom live in Shea Heights, have owned the 21 acres of land for the last three years. Francis and Smith have always enjoyed camping, but they wanted to try and create a private park and campground that would encourage families to come with their kids in tow.

“We want to be not only like Pippy Park (in St. John’s), we want to be double the amount of focus on family orientation and family environment,” said Smith, speaking alongside Francis on their land bordering Long Pond. “We are not a park that would tolerate any type of belligerent behaviour. We’ve got park rangers that are going to be going around here.”

Such points were made by Matthew Mills of Tract Consulting during a presentation last Tuesday at a public meeting in St. John’s City Hall. He prepared a land use assessment report for the city on behalf of Francis and Smith as part of their discretionary use application for the proposed development.

However, talk of a family focus did not ease the concerns of many area residents who spoke at the public meeting on Tuesday. They expressed concerns about the prospect of noise coming from the park and campground. Some said they chose to live in the area because of its tranquility.

The issue of increased traffic to and from the area was also raised. Blackhead Road serves as the only road leading to a popular tourist attraction — the Cape Spear National Historic Site. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting, and most of them clapped after each person voiced their concerns about the proposed development

Asked whether they anticipated such a reaction from local residents, Francis said Tract Consulting did a great job presenting their proposal.

“People have got issues everywhere,” said Francis. “Hopefully (consultant Mills) covered all the concerns and issues of the people that had concerns and issues.”

He noted it is hard to hear much noise on the proposed site for the park and campground beyond vehicles passing through the area on Blackhead Road. A vegetated buffer of 80-125 metres will separate campsites from the backyards of residential properties along Blackhead Road. Smith added the campground will not have generators on-site.

As for traffic, Francis said most campers will travel directly to the campground and stay there. “They’re not even going into Blackhead, per se,” he said.

Smith said open fires will not be permitted at the campground, and staff will keep a close eye on the provincial fire index.

As a private park, Smith said, the operators will have the right to refuse service to people who they expect will not benefit the site’s atmosphere. It also plans to have a ban on the public consumption of alcohol.

“We will not tolerate the open consumption of alcohol throughout the park,” said Francis. “If you want to sit down with your family, we’re not saying you can’t have a drink with your family in your camper. We’re not saying you can’t have a drink with your family by the fireplace in the evening time.”

Smith adds that the park will crack down on public drunkenness. He also expects its existence will deter people from loitering at night at the local beach, contrary to what at least one resident suggested at last Tuesday’s meeting.

Smith said the park will also be well-suited to accommodating hikers on the East Coast Trail looking for a place to camp before continuing on their journey.

The park and campground would operate year-round if approved, and Smith plans to live on-site.

The discretionary use application pertaining to the proposed development is due to come back to St. John’s city council, Smith expects, at the July 8 council


Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Geographic location: Blackhead Road, Shea Heights, Pippy Park Long Pond

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Recent comments

  • Gwynn
    June 24, 2013 - 22:46

    These men have 21 acres to develope into a family campground....what is wrong with that.... If it is designated as should keep the extreme partiers away..

    • david
      June 25, 2013 - 09:22

      Yup. A campground really shouldn't be such a big deal. It isn't almost anywhere else. Where drinking to excess is not as insidiously engrained a social activity, being respectful of others' privacy and rights is part of sharing and enjoying a campground. BTW, a place like George St. shouldn't be a problem either....people in a good mood, all going out in a designated area to have a good time, fueled by alcohol.....what could go wrong?

  • Also a happy camper
    June 24, 2013 - 21:59

    I also agree with happy camper I have been camping many years from he time I was 18 still camping now that I,m over 50 first of all you will always meet drinkers,party people and rowdy ones,but there are civilized people out there.Look at Pippy Park what a park people drink there,they have sing a longs,they party and yes it's in a highly residential area,I shower and leave at 6am and go to work from there.There are great parks out there that are quite surreal,oh and live just down over the hill from Blackhead must people today just want a family get away from home but not out of the city.Sounds like a plant to me .

    • david
      June 25, 2013 - 09:14

      This is an important opinion. This is a very common "Newfoundland camper" mentality..."it's all just a bit of fun, b'ye! Relax, put up with it, who are you to ruin other people's fun?" Sacrifice the quiet majority for the whims of the loud, obnoxious minority, simply because we are such an immensely social. musically gifted, outdoors-craven race. Et voila...Newfoundland camping. Newfies see the camping 'party' as the ultimate 'social' activity, whereas it is completely ANTI-social behavior towards those who aren't invited or interested in that. This is why you cannot permit a Newfoundland campground anywhere near where people live.

    • david
      June 25, 2013 - 14:27

      Pippy Park has a lot of cops nearby.

  • stephen
    June 24, 2013 - 19:07

    a campground with no CMPFIRE. Are these guys serious?Stop this at all cost.This is about people trying to make money,nothing else.Who in the name of David goes camping,not wanting to have a campfire!

    • david
      June 26, 2013 - 08:17

      And here I thought this was maybe about the owners wanting to produce a reality TV series about camping. All about money, you say!?! Hunh! What kind of crazy business is that!?

  • Happy Camper
    June 24, 2013 - 13:41

    My husband and I have been avid campers since we were teenagers and in my experience people tend to be attracted to the type of campground that suits their interest. We have never been the rowdy camping types and have checked out those types of campgrounds and chosen not to stay. The many campgrounds have have chosen to stay at over the years - in Newfoundland - have been peaceful, family oriented places. I have stayed at several campgrounds without wardens on duty for a substantial portion of daytimes and nights where people are respectful of one another so I think that especially with wardens on site I don't see why the proposed campground in Blackhead could not be as the potential operators describe.

    • david
      June 24, 2013 - 16:12

      There are no "types" of campgrounds. That said, there ARE campgrounds that are notorious for often being rowdy....due to the inability or disinterest of the owners to stop it. But any campground in Nfld., on any given night, can become anything from a 'bad experience' to a total nightmare. You just take your chances that it's not yours. Drinking to excess is the 'camping etiquette' equivalent of roasting hot dogs elsewhere. It is what it is.

  • david
    June 24, 2013 - 12:26

    It is simply not credible to promote this campsite idea as a "family oriented" endeavour, as it could be in any other place in Canada. This is Newfoundland, where "camping" is a local euphemism for getting rip roaring drunk, very loud, and often vulgar and ignorant. And it doesn't matter if even 90% of the patrons are quiet and not inclined that's the other, loud 10% that control the experience for everyone. There's not enough money at stake to put all these people through this. It is sacrificing the majority for a couple of park owners' benefit.

    • Max
      June 24, 2013 - 17:52

      Whenever anyone around the Metro area wants to develop their property, there are always homeowners who have a problem with it. The people who own this property want to do something with that will benefit others as well as make themselves some money. That's free enterprise. If the homeowners in Blackhead don't want the campground to go ahead, why don't you all pool your money and buy the land so that you can ensure nothing will go there. It is not "your" land now so you should not have any say in what goes there.

    • david
      June 26, 2013 - 08:13

      Max: That is true...people don't like change, and all people like their privacy. That is simply a universal truth. Everywhere. So that's not the issue here more than anywhere else. It is the specifics here that matter.....Newfoundland campgrounds are not "normal" campgrounds...they are far too often drunk tanks, concert halls, and cursing-and-fighting arenas. It really is too bad, but they just are....because that's who WE are. And it's 100% predictable that the next one will be too. Being loud usually offends someone, but being quiet offends no one. Quiet is better.